November 2, 2013

Side by side: Maine marijuana law vs. proposed Portland ordinance

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

THE CURRENT MAINE LAW

Possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana is civil, not a criminal, offense. Offenders are issued a civil citation for possessing up to 1.25 ounces of marijuana, which carries fines of $350 to $600. Possession of 1.25 ounces to 2.5 ounces is a civil violation carrying fines of $700 to $1,000.

Criminal charges may be brought if that marijuana is packaged for sale or furnished to another person. Police Chief Michael Sauschuck put it this way: If you smoke a joint, it’s a civil violation; if you pass it to the person next to you, it’s a criminal violation for furnishing; and if that person pays for the joint, it’s a criminal charge for selling marijuana.

THE PROPOSED PORTLAND ORDINANCE

Proponents say Question 1 would enact a local ordinance that would legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by adults age 21 and older within city limits.

The initiative would not legalize the sale or purchase of marijuana, but would allow anyone 21 or older to “engage in activities for the purposes of ascertaining the possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.”

It would prohibit recreational use of marijuana in public spaces, on school grounds or on transportation infrastructure, and would let landlords prohibit tenants from using marijuana on their property.

THE IMPACT:

Marijuana would remain illegal under federal law and state law.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said the ordinance would not affect how police enforce state marijuana laws.

Supporters see passage as a step toward legalization at the state and then national levels.

Passage of Question 1 will require the mayor to report on police enforcement of marijuana laws to the City Council on an annual basis.

It also would stake out Portland’s position in support of regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol.

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