Well-known travel writer and television host Rick Steves has donated $50,000 to a Maine political action committee that’s backing a fall referendum effort to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

In its most recent campaign finance reports, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said it raised just over $191,000 for the reporting period that ended on July 19.

Steves has been a prominent supporter of legalization in the U.S. He is scheduled to come to Maine in October to stump for the referendum campaign.

In a May letter to legalization supporters, Steves promised to match “dollar-for-dollar” donations up to a total of $50,000. He made his donation July 18, according to campaign finance records.

“Through my travels in Europe, I’ve learned that pragmatic harm reduction makes much more sense than legislating morality,” Steves wrote in the letter. “And I believe in civil liberties. Responsible adults should be able to use marijuana, just as they can use alcohol. Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska have demonstrated that it is possible to build a system of marijuana control and regulation that works. This isn’t about being ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ on drugs. This is about being smart – and controlling and regulating marijuana the right way.”

Steves is a resident of Washington state and has worked for legalization there and in Oregon.


Steves is filming in Europe and was unavailable for an interview Thursday.

The campaign in Maine has raised a total of $436,000 and had about $93,000 cash on hand at the end of the reporting period.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol collected roughly 100,000 petition signatures in its effort to qualify for the ballot. But Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap invalidated nearly half of them for various reasons, including inconsistencies between the notary signatures on file in his office and those on petition sheets.

The campaign appealed, a state court ordered the Secretary of State’s Office to review the signatures, and Dunlap certified 11,305 that had previously been invalidated. That pushed the total to more than the 61,123 needed to qualify.

If the referendum is approved, adults could possess up to 2½ ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants for personal use. Marijuana use would be prohibited in public, with violations punished by a $100 fine. The bill also would apply a sales tax of 10 percent to retail marijuana and marijuana products.

Medical marijuana use has been legal in Maine since 1999.

In 2013 Portland became the first East Coast city to approve a legalization ordinance. A similar effort in Lewiston, the state’s second largest city, failed in 2014. Even if voters approve the ballot question in November, possession of marijuana would still be illegal under federal law.

“We are proud to have support of many people both in state and out of state,” said David Boyer, the director of the campaign in Maine. “This is a state campaign but it’s part of a national campaign to make marijuana legal and we appreciate philanthropists like Rick who want to change this failed policy of prohibition.”


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