Supporters of Portland’s Question 1 claimed victory tonight, celebrating their work to make Portland the first city on the East Coast to legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for adults over 21. Question 1 was approved by about 70% of the vote, with only around 30% voting in opposition.
“Volunteers have been working tirelessly to make Portland the first city on the East Coast to legalize marijuana for adults, and tonight we celebrate,” said Rep. Diane Russell. “This is truly a victory for science, for common sense and for liberty.”
Earlier this year, Russell’s bill, “An Act to Tax and Regulate Marijuana” earned itself 35 co-sponsors, but fell just four votes short in the Maine House of Representatives. Since that time, the Department of Justice has released guidelines allowing states to move forward with regulating marijuana in a similar manner to alcohol. The populist Portland vote is seen as a litmus test of momentum for replacing prohibition with alcohol-style regulation.
“We already successfully regulate marijuana for medical use and, with tonight’s vote, it’s now clear Mainers are ready to move forward responsibly regulating all adult marijuana sales. We are calling on city officials to respect the will of the voters, and state leaders to get ahead of this issue with a Maine approach to taxing and regulating this commodity, much like we do alcohol,” said Russell. “It’s time to stop rewarding drug cartels and start rewarding responsible business owners, while funding important state priorities with new tax revenue.”
“We hope this resounding vote in Portland sends a loud and clear message, not just to lawmakers in Augusta, but lawmakers nationwide,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “We the people are ready for marijuana legalization and it is well past time for legislators to listen to their constituents and push for an end to the failed policy of prohibition.”
NORML and Representative Russell are still working to have statewide marijuana legalization statewide in 2014.
Today, voters across the nation head to the polls to cast their ballots in a number of state and local elections. While there are no statewide marijuana initiatives this year, that doesn’t mean some Americans won’t have the chance to vote in favor of sensible marijuana law reforms.
In Portland, Maine, Question 1 will appear on the ballot. This measure would remove all criminal and civil penalties for possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana within the city. No arrest, no fine, no crime. NORML encourages all Portland residents to get out and vote YES on Question 1.
Three areas in Michigan will also be voting on local marijuana legalization initiatives. Lansing, Ferndale, and Jackson will be voting on measures to legalize the private adult possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana in those locations. NORML encourages voters in these cities to get out and vote YES on these efforts.
Below is a statement from NORML PAC on the endorsements it has made in this year’s races:
18th Legislative District State Senate – Assemblyman Peter Barnes: “NORML PAC is endorsing Assemblyman Peter Barnes in his campaign for a seat in the state Senate representing the 18th Legislative District. Assemblyman Barnes has been a strong supporter of medical use as well as marijuana decriminalization during his tenure in the Assembly and we believe he will prove a strong advocate for reform issues should he be elected to the Senate. Meanwhile, his opponent, East Brunswick Mayor David Stahl, oversaw an over 35% increase in marijuana arrests in his city from 2010-2012. For these reasons, NORML PAC is endorsing Assemblyman Barnes for state Senate.”
15th Legislative District State Assembly – Assemblyman Reed Guscoria: “NORML PAC is pleased to endorse Assemblyman Reed Guscoria in his campaign for reelection to the New Jersey State Assembly. Assemblyman Guscoria has been a vocal advocate for reforming New Jersey’s marijuana laws, from drafting the original NJ medical marijuana legislation, being the primary sponsor of the NJ Assembly’s marijuana decriminalization bill, and continuing to push for sensible reforms to New Jersey’s medical marijuana program to make it workable for patients.
Assemblyman Guscoria has been an important leader pursuing reforms that roll back the senseless and destructive prohibition on marijuana and move New Jersey towards a policy that is smart on crime and compassionate towards the state’s patient population. ”
Mayoral Election – Steve Berke: “NORML PAC is pleased to endorse Steve Berke in his campaign for mayor of Miami Beach. Steve has been a tireless advocate for reforming marijuana laws and has used his campaign and platform to educate the public about the failures of marijuana prohibition and the necessity of pursuing a new policy. We believe that during his mayorship, Steve Berke would be an excellent spokesman for advancing the conversation around ending our country’s war on cannabis consumers, as he has already done for many years outside of elected office. Steve Berke believes strongly in reforming our current laws and moving towards a system of legalization and regulation, for these reasons NORML PAC supports his candidacy for mayor.”
As we mentioned here previously, NORML has worked with Representative Diane Russell in Maine to draft and prepare for introduction a measure that would have legalized and regulated the adult use of marijuana in the state. The proposed legislation would have legalized the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and the cultivation of up to 6 plants by individuals over the age of 21. It would have established marijuana retail outlets and cultivation sites across the state to create an aboveboard regulated market. To ensure that both those with experience and those with strong ties to the state of Maine were given priority, applicants who are already operating in Maine’s medical program and applicants with 2 or more years residency in the state were to receive the right of first refusal for retail licenses.
To be introduced, the measure had to be approved by Maine’s Legislative Council and was on track to do so until today. At the last minute, monied corporate interests representing established medical marijuana dispensaries came in and managed to flip one of the votes necessary to approve the bill for introduction. Their complaints were vague and they made the claim they were not invited to the table, despite the legislation being drafted to provide them with priority status when it came to applying for retail licenses. In truth, they walked away from the very table they said they were not invited to. In addition to providing deference to both medical dispensaries, registered caregivers, and applicants with real ties to the state, 5% of the taxes raised from the sales of retail marijuana would have gone to help low income patients who are suffering in Maine by subsidizing the cost of their medical cannabis.
“Today, corporate and profit-driven interests shunned Maine’s economic future and shut down the prospects of a new bill to regulate marijuana,” stated Representative Diane Russell, “For the record, 5% of tax revenue from the new bill would have gone to ensuring low income Mainers could afford their medical marijuana. Profits seem to be more important than patients – and that’s just wrong.”
With pressure from those with vested interest in maintaining the status quo, this proposed legislation ended up falling one vote short of what was required for its introduction, although we had enough votes.
Maine Residents: Please, take a moment of your day to contact Maine’s Legislative Council using our form linked below and let them know you disagree with their decision. The time is overdue for Maine to move towards a regulated system that puts the interests of Mainers before the interest of profits.
Very Disappointing: Please Reconsider LR 2329
I am writing to express my disappointment with the Maine Legislative Council for failing to approve Representative Diane Russell’s proposed legislation that would have legalized adult possession and limited cultivation of marijuana, while regulating its retail sale similar to how our state currently regulates alcohol.
For those who voted in support of Rep. Russell’s bill, I sincerely thank you. For those who voted in opposition to it, I write to respectfully request you reconsider your vote. I’ve outlined my reasons below and hope you will give serious consideration to the growing number of Mainers who want a Maine approach to marijuana policy.
Next Tuesday, Portland will be voting on a citizen referendum to legalize cannabis for adults. If this ordinance passes, there will be no vehicle to channel the growing momentum for legalization toward a constructive end. When 58% of Americans support replacing prohibition with regulation, the issue is no longer coming – it’s here. Regardless of the vote next week, we should be actively working to get ahead of this issue in a responsible, open manner.
Mainers are quickly realizing that prohibition has failed to protect kids. In fact, more than 80 percent of high school seniors attest to the federal government that they have easy access to marijuana – that statistic has remained constant for nearly four decades.
Further, Mainers are twice as likely to get arrested for possession if they are African American; York county residents are five times as likely. In 2010 alone, Maine arrested over 2,800 individuals for simple marijuana possession. The cost of enforcing these laws comes with an annual bill in excess of 8.8 million dollars a year, while doing nothing to create safer communities or dissuade use. Further, this system has only incentivized drug dealers and cartels who are currently profiting off prohibition.
This legislation was written with safe guards in place to give priority to in state residents and current medical marijuana dispensary operators when it comes to the distribution of retail licenses. Additionally, it would have taken the marijuana trade out of the hands of black market criminal elements and put it under the control of legitimate regulated business owners – from Maine – while raising substantial tax revenue for the state. The bill funded the hiring of new Drug Recognition Experts to help enhance highway safety, Drugs for the Elderly, addiction treatment, medical marijuana for low income people, and the launch of a marijuana youth prevention task force.
In short, this was a Maine approach to responsibly addressing a growing cultural shift. I ask you to reconsider this vote, and allow a new bill to move forward that truly reflects the direction Mainers want to go on this issue.
The initiative, Question 1, would remove all criminal and civil penalties for adults possessing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. This means no arrest, no criminal record, no citation, no fine. We know we can win on Election Day and pass this initiative, which would send a clear message down the East Coast that the people in this region are ready to move forward on legalizing marijuana.
You can help make that victory a reality. Our allies at Just Say Now have launched an online phone banking tool which allows anyone across the country to log in and begin calling Portland voters to encourage their support for the issue. A script and talking points will be provided and you can help us by making as many calls to voters as you can, any amount helps inch us closer to the finish line.
Click here to sign up and begin calling Portland voters in support of Question 1 today!
Vote Yes on Question 1, Legalize Marijuana in Portland.
The DC City Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will hold public hearings on legislation introduced earlier this year by Councilman Tommy Wells, B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013. The measure will receive two public hearings, one on Wednesday evening from 6:30pm until 9:00pm at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library located at 1800 Good Hope Road SE. The hearing will reconvene Thursday at 11:30am in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building located at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW.
NORML will be testifying along with other allied groups in favor of this legislation. The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act would make the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by those 18 years of age or older a civil violation, punishable by a $100 fine. Currently, the possession of any amount of marijuana in the District of Columbia is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months incarceration or a maximum $1,000 fine. A survey conducted by Public Policy Polling earlier this year found that 75% of DC residents support this reform.
A live stream of the hearings should be available here, the video will also be archived on the City Council website for viewing at a later date.
If you live in DC and can’t attend the hearing, you can quickly and easily contact your City Council member in support of this measure by clicking here.
You can read NORML’s testimony below:
Written Testimony Regarding B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013, Before the DC City Council, Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety
By Erik Altieri, Communications Director
NORML | NORML Foundation
October 24, 2013
NORML applauds the members of the City Council for holding this hearing regarding the decriminalization of personal use amounts of marijuana.
B20-0409: The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act of 2013 reduces minor marijuana possession penalties (those involving the possession of 1 ounce or less) from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $1000 fine, to a civil infraction punishable by a fine only. This common sense, fiscally responsible proposal will cut costs, improve public safety, and have a positive impact on the quality of life of thousands of adults in the District of Columbia.
This Measure Will Improve The Quality Of Life For DC Citizens
In 2011, about 4,300 District citizens were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana at the estimated cost of over 20 million dollars. These arrests disproportionately effect people of color, with African American residents being arrested at 8 times the rate of their white counterparts despite similar use rates. This statistic makes the District 2nd in the nation when it comes to racial disparities, falling just behind Iowa. While only accounting for 51.6% of the population, people of color account for more than 90% of all marijuana arrests. Passage of this measure would spare many of these citizens from criminal arrest, prosecution, and incarceration, as well as the emotional and financial hardships that follow — including the loss of certain jobs, students loans, federal and state subsidies, and child custody rights.
Most adult marijuana users act responsibly. They are not part of the crime problem and they should not be treated like serious criminals. This legislation would maintain monetary sanctions for marijuana possession violations, but would spare offenders from being saddled with lifelong criminal records. This change would continue to discourage marijuana abuse, while halting the practice of permanently criminalizing thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens.
B20-0409 Will Cut Costs And Improve Public Safety
Law enforcement resource allocation is a zero-sum gain. The time that a police officer spends arresting and processing minor marijuana offenders is time when he or she is not out on the streets protecting the public from more significant criminal activity. Passage of this bill would allow law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts to re-allocate their existing resources toward activities that will more effectively target serious criminal behavior and keep the public safe. In recent years, lawmakers in California (2010), Connecticut (2011) and Vermont (2013) have enacted similar legislation for these reasons. To date, these laws are working as lawmakers intended.
District Residents Strongly Support Decriminalization
Public opinion strongly favors such a reprioritization of law enforcement resources. Marijuana ‘decriminalization,’ as proposed under The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act, presently enjoys support from the majority of Americans. According to a DC poll conducted by Public Policy Polling earlier this year, 75 percent of D.C. residents support decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
Contrary to the concerns of some, the passage of this legislation would not negatively impact marijuana use patterns or attitudes. Passage of similar legislation in other states has not led to increased marijuana use or altered adolescents’ perceptions regarding the potential harms of drug use. In fact, the only United States government study ever commissioned to assess whether the enforcement of strict legal penalties positively impacts marijuana use found, “Overall, the preponderance of the evidence which we have gathered and examined points to the conclusion that decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people.”
Support Public Safety: Vote ‘Yes’ On The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act
The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Act seeks to reduce government expenditures and promote public safety. These are goals that lawmakers should support. It makes no sense to continue to treat responsible adult cannabis consumers as criminals. While NORML encourages the Council to approve this measure, we hope that you will also continue to pursue further marijuana law reforms. Amending this legislation to include limited personal cultivation of several marijuana plants would allow consumers to have an alternative source instead of continuing to funnel money into the black market. Ultimately, we urge the Council to consider moving further, to a system that regulates marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, which would put marijuana commerce in the hands of regulated businesses and away from criminal elements. Thank you for your time and consideration of this measure.