Maine marijuana decriminalization supporters collecting signatures today


If it isn’t going to be legalized, adults who choose to consume cannabis shouldn’t be treated like criminals. That idea is the basis for citywide ballot measures in Lewiston, South Portland and York that would decriminalize up to an ounce of herb as well as the use of ganja on private property.
Public use would remain illegal. So would selling it, growing it, distributing it, importing it and even smoking it in your rental unit if your lease forbids it.

The measures are similar to one passed in Portland last year that decriminalized similar amounts. That measure passed by a whopping 67 percent. Most at the time saw the move as symbolic as at the time the penalty for possession of marijuana up to 2.5 ounces was a $600 fine.
The petition drive in Lewiston, South Portland and York started this week, pushed by Citizens for a Safer Maine and backed by the Marijuana Policy Project. David Boyer, director of Maine activities for MPP called the current enforcement of marijuana laws illogical and said police have much better things to be doing with their time. The group held a press conference yesterday along with former state Rep. Stavros Mendros.
“It is just a simple issue of freedom,” Mendros said. “I’m not a big fan of marijuana. I think smoking it is a bad idea personally, with all due respect. I think it is dumb, bad for your health, but then again, so is being fat and no one is throwing me in jail for that, so you know it is about letting people live and have the freedom to live the way they want to live.”
Despite the fact that the measure doesn’t actually legalize anything or make marijuana more accessible by any means, anti-cannabis groups are claiming it will harm children. As if hassling their parents for marijuana possession and taking hundreds of dollars from them in fines isn’t harmful enough.
“So nothing changes on the ground at the municipal level, but what does change is the message that youth may be getting as far as it is another step towards broadening access, another step towards saying it is no big deal,” Scott Gagnon with Smart Approaches to Marijuana, told WCSH6.
Maybe that’s because it isn’t a big deal. Gagnon said research has shown that middle school students in one Maine county aren’t as concerned with the risks of pot use. Maybe that’s because the baseline they’ve started with was complete lies – lies spread by groups like Gagnon’s.
Boyer said the group needs to come to grips with reality.
“We feel like this is the right message to send to kids that, look marijuana is for adults 21 and up,” he said. “Right now, they are not hearing that message, and when you turn 21 you can use marijuana, you can use alcohol, if you choose, both can be used responsibly.”
The group now has 60 days to collect signatures.