This session, our Maine Legislature will vote on L.D. 1492, which would reduce or eliminate penalties, and remove presumption of trafficking, for simple possession of controlled substances. Mainers should welcome this with open arms as a win for Maine families.

Punitive drug possession and trafficking laws make criminals out of ordinary people while also giving them a criminal record that may forever prevent them from holding an honest job or completing their education. These collateral consequences put up substantial barriers for people re-entering communities in providing for their families or contributing to society.

Adults aren’t the only victims. According to Eric Martin of the National Institute of Justice, children of incarcerated parents experience trauma related to their parents’ arrest and negative educational, mental health and financial outcomes. Compared to children whose parents aren’t incarcerated, these children are also more likely to end up in the criminal justice system themselves. Keeping parents out of prison and in their children’s lives will break what could be a cycle of negative outcomes lasting generations.

Further, this bill is fiscally responsible, as it costs approximately $31,000 a year to incarcerate each person – including the numerous low-level drug offenders – in our prisons. Keeping people in their communities would save taxpayers millions.

Harsh penalties for drug offenses have not worked and will not work now. They victimize young people and fail to address the root causes of drug abuse. We as a society could divert resources away from prisons and toward treatment. L.D. 1492 is a step in the right direction.

Adrianna Hey


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