Advocates of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana kicked off a campaign in Lewiston on Tuesday in support of upcoming votes on the issue there and in South Portland.

Supporters, led by the Marijuana Policy Project, held a rally at Kennedy Park in support of Lewiston’s Question 2, which would make possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. A similar question is on the Nov. 4 ballot in South Portland.

“Every day more and more people support making marijuana legal,” said David Boyer, Maine political director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “They see it makes more sense to have marijuana regulated instead of keeping it illegal.”

As voters in South Portland and Lewiston prepare to vote on the issue, it’s increasingly clear legalization advocates are not likely to challenge a recent court decision that kept the same question off the ballot in York. The deadline to appeal the decision is Friday.

A York County Superior Court judge ruled Sept. 19 that the York Board of Selectmen did not have to put the question on the local ballot because it was not a lawful topic since marijuana use is governed by state and federal law. The day of the ruling was the deadline for York selectmen to approve items for the November ballot.

“It’s really not a lawful topic,” Justice Paul Fritzsche said in announcing his ruling. “It’s not one that is the area of governance for the municipality.”


Boyer said the group will decide later this week whether to appeal the decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Ballots in York have already been printed and absentee voting has begun, according to the town clerk’s office.

Stephen Burns, interim town manager of York, said the court ruling made clear the question “was not going to be forced onto the November ballot.” However, if legalization advocates won their underlying complaint, they could potentially force another referendum, he said.

The campaigns for and against legalization are likely to be low-key, as they were in Portland last November when residents voted to legalize possession of marijuana by adults. Boyer said he is the Marijuana Policy Project’s only paid employee and the campaign is supported by volunteers.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine has been the most vocal group opposed to the questions. Director Scott Gagnon said the group has no funding and is focused on providing educational information to people opposed to legalization.

At the Lewiston campaign event, Boyer was joined by Matt Roy, a school committee member and one of three city officials who signed the petition to put the question on the ballot. City Councilors Leslie DuBois and Donald D’Auteuil also signed the petition.

“Law enforcement resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes instead of adults possessing small amounts of marijuana,” DuBois said in a prepared statement. “Question 2 will make our communities safer.”


Boyer said the campaign in Lewiston will focus partially on getting Bates College students registered to vote.

Alexandra Gwillim, a Bates freshman, said she supports the campaign because “I think prohibition of marijuana perpetuates the binge-drinking culture of college.”

“Legalizing marijuana is a good way to end that,” she said.

Opponents of the question argue legalizing marijuana will normalize its use for youth and could cause problems with people driving after using the drug.

Gagnon, of SAM Maine, said he finds it “curious” that advocates are focusing on engaging Bates College students, but believes that is likely to counteract typical low voter turnout among young voters during off-year elections. He said he has heard from many people in Lewiston who are opposed to Question 2.

“I think you are going to see a lot of voices in opposition in Lewiston,” he said. “I feel we’re going to see a lot of people saying ‘This is not the right direction for Lewiston.’ ”

Under the proposed ordinances, the use of marijuana in public would not be allowed. The measure also expresses support for regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol. Marijuana use would continue to be illegal under state and federal laws.

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