Advocates for legalizing marijuana plan Friday to deliver the last batch of signatures they need to ask Lewiston voters whether the city should approve recreational use of the drug by anyone 21 or older.

David Boyer, Maine political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, the group leading the signature campaign, said his group has collected more than the required 859 signatures of registered voters to put the question on the Nov. 4 ballot. Only 66 are left to be validated, he said.

“One of the reasons we chose Lewiston is it’s a swing city in a swing county,” Boyer said. “Androscoggin County seems like a good bellwether of state elections.”

The Lewiston signature drive is the last of three planned initiatives on marijuana legalization in Maine before a statewide legalization campaign expected in 2016. Although its petition is similar to those in South Portland and York, Lewiston is the only one of the three communities where elected officials have signed the petition.

Lewiston City Councilors Leslie DuBois and Donald D’Auteuil, along with School Committee member Matt Roy, signed in support, Boyer said.

D’Auteuil and DuBois did not return requests for comment, but Roy said he will continue to support legalization because he believes the federal policy of prohibition has failed, and led to a lumping together of marijuana with more dangerous substances.


Combined with what Roy said are the proven medicinal qualities of the substance and the chance for increased revenue through marijuana taxation, he decided in 2013 to support legalization.

“There’s ill effects to anything,” said Roy. “You have to weigh that against the benefits.”

Opponents have said legalization would inevitably increase marijuana use by minors, causing widespread negative effects for youth academic achievement, public health and the economy.

In York and South Portland, Boyer’s group has met early opposition. Officials in both communities, along with anti-drug groups, have come out against the local legalization drives, saying that legalization normalizes the use of a harmful substance and increases the likelihood of marijuana use by children and teens.

Scott Gagnon, state director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said marijuana use among teens and adolescents correlates to lower grades in school, and later in life, could lower worker productivity.

On the economic side, legalized marijuana could repel business and tourism.


“Whatever problems (legalization advocates) think they’re solving, they’re creating many more,” Gagnon said. “We already have decriminalization for up to 2.5 ounces. We’re not locking people up for possession. To me, this is just breaking ground for a big marijuana industry to come in here and set up shop.”

In South Portland, the city council and the South Portland Chief of Police launched a preemptive anti-legalization campaign.

York selectmen, meanwhile, blocked an identical citizen petition from the ballot last month, although Boyer’s group is expected to submit more signatures to override their decision.

Although the Lewiston City Council has the authority to pass the local legalization measure directly into local ordinance, Boyer said councilors will likely send the questions to voters for an up-or-down vote in November.

The local skirmishes over drug policy are likely to have little effect on how police in those areas treat low-level possession; in Maine, possession of less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana, or possession of related paraphernalia, has been decriminalized since 1997, and carries a civil, monetary fine.

Momentum has been building across the country for the last couple of years for a softer government approach to the substance. Voters in Colorado and Washington state in 2012 approved laws to tax and regulate recreational marijuana use.


In November 2013, Portland voters legalized recreational marijuana use, although the city’s police chief has said that despite the vote officers will continue to enforce state law.

Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be reached at 791-6303, or at:

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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