November 2, 2013

Another View: Portland marijuana referendum would free up scarce police resources

Question 1 would give city officers the authority to stop making needless arrests for possession.

Re: “Maine Voices: Aroma of marijuana is not what smells about Portland pot referendum” (Nov. 1):

about the author

David Boyer is the Marijuana Policy Project’s Maine political director.

Portland voters have an important decision to make on Election Day. They can vote “yes” on Question 1, make possession of small amounts of marijuana legal for adults and move toward regulating it like alcohol. Or they can vote “no,” allow the arrests and prosecutions to continue and stay the course of marijuana prohibition.

Question 1 would remove all legal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults 21 years of age and older. Public use would remain illegal.

Passage of the measure would direct city officials to stop using Portland’s limited law enforcement resources to punish adults for marijuana possession. Instead, police and prosecutors would be able to spend more of their time and attention addressing and preventing serious crimes.

Marijuana will remain illegal under state law, but police will have the ability to respect the will of the voters and stop making arrests. They have vast discretion when it comes to whom they cite, when and for what. For example, an officer might not stop someone if they see them driving 7 mph over the speed limit. Why? Because their time would be much better spent looking for and stopping someone going 20 mph over the speed limit. If Question 1 passes, they could simply treat adults who they find to be in possession of marijuana similarly to that slower driver.

Marijuana prohibition has been just as ineffective and problematic as alcohol prohibition. Fortunately, lawmakers are considering a proposal to replace Maine’s prohibition laws with a system in which marijuana is taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol. In the meantime, we need to stop the bleeding and put an end to these needless marijuana possession arrests. Portlanders can do that by voting “yes” on Question 1.

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