The editors of the Portland Press Herald are apparently confused about Citizens for a Safer Portland’s efforts to legalize marijuana in the city (“Our View: ‘Legalizing’ pot in Portland would just add to the confusion,” June 1). Perhaps I can offer some clarification.

The issue is actually quite simple. This fall, Portland voters will have the chance to legalize up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for adult recreational use.

The decades-long prosecution of marijuana has tied up our courts, seen hundreds imprisoned for a nonviolent offense, augmented racial inequalities and cost taxpayers more than $51 billion annually. In 2011 alone, 757,969 Americans were arrested for drug violation involving marijuana, according to statistics from the Drug Policy Alliance. Of those arrests, 87 percent were merely for marijuana possession.

The editorial claims that legalizing marijuana on a “piecemeal town-by-town basis is not worth the trouble.” But this is precisely how Colorado implemented its legalization effort in last fall’s election. The reason we are not pursuing this issue at the federal level is, frankly, we are tired of waiting for Congress to act. Furthermore, the penalties for a petty marijuana possession charge – even in states such as Maine where the drug has been decriminalized in small amounts – can often be far more insidious than the paper’s editors seem to realize. They can prevent individuals from qualifying for college loans, getting a job or securing a mortgage. The ramifications are hardly benign.

Marijuana is objectively safer than alcohol. And, if ultimately taxed and regulated as alcohol, legal marijuana sales could provide some much-needed revenue for our perennially cash-strapped state.   

The Portland Green Independent Party launched this initiative because we believe our current marijuana laws are ineffective, inordinate and unjust.

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