September 11, 2013

National group wants Maine to legalize marijuana

The vote may come in 2016 as advocates try to get New England states to allow recreational use.

By Kevin Miller
Staff Writer

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In this in Dec. 31, 2012 file photo, Rachel Schaefer of Denver smokes marijuana on the official opening night of Club 64, a marijuana-specific social club, where a New Year's Eve party was held, in Denver. Bolstered by political victories out West, a marijuana advocacy group is now looking at Maine and other New England states as fertile ground for its next major push to legalize a drug that's gaining wider acceptance from the American public.


"We are not giving immunity," Cole said. "We are not giving a free pass. We are not abdicating our responsibility. We are dedicating ourselves to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act in regard to marijuana when it (violates) those federal priorities."

Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center in California, said the memo is likely to influence the conversation on legalization, but states have a wide range of options between prohibition of marijuana and commercial enterprises selling legal pot for maximum profit.

He also noted that federal policies on marijuana can change with administrations. So while Kilmer expects to hear more discussion in other states, he isn't ready to predict a groundswell of efforts to legalize the drug for recreational use.

"A lot depends on the federal response," Kilmer said. "And it will be interesting to see what happens in the next administration."

In Maine, the Marijuana Policy Project has ramped up its early campaign by distributing information at events such as the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, the Yarmouth Clam Festival and a recent beer festival in Portland. Signature-gathering for the ballot cannot begin for some time, under Maine law.

Major ballot initiative campaigns aren't cheap in Maine. Boyer and Tvert said they expect donations to come from both Mainers and residents of other states who support the cause.

"Marijuana Policy Project is definitely prepared to spend what it needs to to make sure it does pass," Boyer said. "I can safely say that it will be in six figures."


Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:


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