Portland, Maine has legalized the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for adults over 21, with more than 70 percent of voters in the city giving their approval to the measure.
While certainly a step in the right direction, the bill was mostly symbolic. Marijuana cultivation remains illegal, and 2.5 ounces of cannabis was already among the lowest civil penalties in the city. The legalization does eliminate up to $600 in fines for those caught with 2.5 ounces or less, however.
According to police records, cops issued 54 citations for cannabis possession between June 2011 and June 2012.
Supporters say that the bill's passage was more to send a message to voters in other East Coast cities and states that they could legalize cannabis as well.
"Now that marijuana is legal for adults in Maine's largest city, there is an even greater need for comprehensive reform at the state level," said David Boyer, political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbied for the bill. "By regulating marijuana like alcohol, we could take sales out of the hands of drug cartels in the underground market and put them behind the counters of licensed, tax-paying businesses. It's time to move beyond prohibition and adopt a more sensible approach."
And that should be the next step in Maine. Currently, cultivation is a crime with up to ten years in jail and $20,000 in fines attached.
Unfortunately, Portland police have said that they'll still be enforcing state law. Pot prosecution isn't a big priority for them, but "this doesn't change anything for us in terms of enforcement," Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck told the Bangor Daily News.
Similar laws passed in Denver, Colorado in 2007 saw similar pushback from law enforcement and citations and arrests for marijuana use and possession of an ounce or less continued.