Marijuana legalization for adults is coming to Maine; voters support the idea and Portland will lead the way. More than 70 percent of Portland voters have twice supported contradicting federal law regarding marijuana over the past 14 years. We believe it is time to do so at the local level and send a clear message: marijuana is safer than alcohol and our government needs to recognize it. The Portland Green Independent Committee has taken up this issue because of the lack of action on the state and federal level. Many cities and counties and two states, specifically Colorado and Washington this past November, have recognized the insanity of enforcing marijuana laws. Such enforcement takes valuable time away from those protecting our community. Passing this ordinance here in Portland will be an historic step forward for marijuana legalization efforts both in Maine and nationwide. The ordinance being circulated by the Portland Green Independent Committee will protect otherwise law-abiding results from police action and free the Portland Police Department from enforcing an unjust law, allowing them to focus all of their efforts on protecting and serving our community. Marijuana, despite being the state's largest cash crop, is currently illegal, untaxed and left to the black market. Because of this, the ordinance calls on the state to legalize, tax and regulate the sale and possession of marijuana. If the Legislature were to do so, the tax and sale of marijuana would bring much needed revenue in a time of budget austerity. Over a decade ago, Maine set a precedent for the acceptance of marijuana use. Since 1999, the state of Maine has exercised its right to medical marijuana with no serious federal repercussions. What the Portland Green Independent Committee is putting forward is a choice for the people of Portland. A decade ago, Mainers made the sensible decision to approve the use of medical cannabis, which is still contrary to federal law despite marijuana well known medicinal benefits. In 1999, over 72 percent of Portland voters (and over 61 percent of the state) approved creating a landmark medical marijuana law, making Maine the first eastern state and only the fifth state nationally to contradict federal law and approve of medical marijuana. Ten years later, in 2009, more than 75 percent of Portland voters (58 percent statewide) voted to further expand Maine's medical marijuana program, further disobeying federal law. The 2009 initiative allows for 2.5 ounces of marijuana possession, which is the same amount our ordinance allows. Possession of 2.5 ounces is also the amount decriminalized under state law. If approved by Portland voters, we will not be the first city to approve municipal legalization; Denver, Colorado did so in 2005 and others since. This past November, two states, Colorado and Washington, approved the legalization of marijuana and we hope the Maine Legislature will follow suit. Maine voters have always had an independent voting streak, voting for candidates and ideas that best serve our families and communities. We invite others who want to make history and join the growing movement for outright marijuana legalization for adults.
(Tom MacMillan is chair of the Portland Green Independent Committee.)