November 7, 2013

Portland voters legalize marijuana

The ‘Yes’ vote wins in a landslide, claiming 67 percent of the tally with many of the precincts reporting.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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David Boyer, Maine political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, speaks at Portland’s “Yes on 1” rally as they celebrate victory at Brian Boru in Portland.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Stream Reggae band member Nyah Henderson talks with Portland city councilor David Marshall before the band played at the Yes on 1 campaign celebration at Brian Boru in Portland.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana is a 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 ordinance legalizes possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by adults age 21 and older within city limits.

It does not legalize the sale or purchase of marijuana, but allows anyone 21 or older to “engage in activities for the purposes of ascertaining the possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.”

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


Marijuana remains illegal under federal law and state law.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck says the ordinance won’t affect how police enforce state marijuana laws.

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

The ordinance requires the mayor to report on police enforcement of marijuana laws to the City Council on an annual basis.

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

Thirty-five percent of Portland’s 52,000 registered voters cast ballots.

The Marijuana Policy Project is aiming to legalize marijuana in Maine and nine other 10 states by 2016. It spent more than $10,000 on the campaign in Portland, which it views as a springboard to a statewide legalization effort.

The group has drawn parallels between Portland and Maine and the legalization efforts in Colorado. The city of Denver voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana in 2005. Last year, Colorado voters legalized marijuana statewide, as did voters in Washington.

The U.S. Justice Department has said it will not prevent Colorado and Washington from implementing their laws. That position has encouraged advocates for legalization around the country.

Portland wasn’t the only community in U.S. that had marijuana on its ballot. Voters in Colorado were weighing in on proposed taxes for recreational marijuana, while several communities in Michigan were voting to remove penalties for marijuana possession by adults.

More Americans are changing their minds about marijuana. For the first time, two national polls – Pew and Gallup – recorded a majority this year who favor legalizing marijuana.

There was no organized opposition to Portland’s marijuana initiative, although some in the addiction treatment and prevention community have said the proposal would increase access and abuse and send a message to children that the drug is harmless.

On Friday, the Maine Public Health Association came out against the ordinance. One Portland resident paid about $200 to put up signs in opposition.

Portland’s city attorney, Danielle West-Chuhta, said the ordinance will take effect 30 days after the declaration of the official canvass of the return of the election.

When asked if the city would sue to block the new ordinance, she said, “At this time, the city has not decided what next steps, if any, it will take with regard to the ordinance.”

When voters in Washington state voted to legalize marijuana last year, people celebrated by smoking it in front of police officers. Chief Sauschuck said he hopes that doesn’t happen here.

“I continue to understand the symbolic effort behind this referendum,” he said, “but I hope that no matter which way the vote goes, that our residents comply with state law.”

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:rbillings@pressherald.com Twitter: @randybillings
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Additional Photos

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Erin Segal, 3, watches as an election clerk helps Erin’s mother, Amy Segal, process her ballot at one of 500 new voting machines provided by the state to precincts with more than 1,000 voters. She was voting at the National Guard Armory on Stevens Avenue in Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Yes on 1 campaign manager Tony Zeli hangs posters inside Brian Boru where they plan to celebrate a win.

John Patriquin/StaffPhotographer


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