Aside from implementing Maine's new adult-use marijuana law, there are other marijuana policy bills being heard in Augusta. Four Maine legislators, from both parties, have introduced bills that would help Mainers with past marijuana convictions. You can read more the bills and sponsors here.
Earlier this month, the Portland Press Herald published an editorial in favor of these reforms, saying: "Times change, and laws need to change with them. Maine voted to put the old marijuana laws behind us, and lawmakers should complete the process."
The bills would either seal past convictions or permanently erase them from their records. The language for these bills is not available yet, butgenerally adults who have convictions on their records for crimes that are no longer illegal — home cultivation and personal possession — may apply for their records to be sealed or expunged. Please ask your lawmakers to support this commonsense criminal justice reform.
As an aside, I hope to see you at next week's Cannabis Industry Mixer in Portland on Thursday, February 7. You can see the details and get your free tickets here. See you then!
Two competing marijuana initiative campaigns in Maine announced they will unite behind one state ballot measure to end marijuana prohibition in 2016.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, backed by MPP, will stop collecting signatures in support of the initiative it filed in March and spearhead the campaign in support of a similar initiative filed in February by Legalize Maine. Each of the campaigns has collected approximately 40,000 signatures, and they will work together to collect the remaining signatures needed to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. They have until January to collect a total of approximately 61,000 valid signatures of registered Maine voters.
Portland Press Herald reports:
The development ends the fragmentation among supporters of legalization that made the movement vulnerable to divisions by opponents, and it also eliminates the possibility that voters would pass two legalization questions, which would have forced the legalization language into the hands of the Legislature.
While advocates say they’re confident Maine is ready for legalized marijuana, they were also concerned having two very similar proposals on the ballot would create confusion about voters who would have to parse out the differences. If both qualified for the ballot and were approved, the Legislature would have had to undertake the messy task of sorting out conflicts in statute.
“We’ve all been concerned about having two initiatives and splitting the vote,” said state Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, a longtime legalization advocate who has supported the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “I think when it comes down to it, the people of Maine support legalizing marijuana in a responsible, safe manner. There would have been confusion about which one to support.”
"Joining forces is the best step forward, not only for our respective campaigns, but for Maine as a whole," said David Boyer, campaign manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "We all agree marijuana prohibition has been a colossal failure and that it must be replaced with a system in which marijuana is legal for adults and regulated like alcohol. We can more effectively accomplish our shared goal by combining our resources and working together instead of on parallel tracks.
“We had some differences of opinion on some of the specifics, but our initiatives were largely similar overall. We would not get behind this measure unless we were 100% confident that it will effectively and responsibly end prohibition in Maine. We’re also confident that the voters will agree."
State legislators in Maine are planning to introduce at least four marijuana-related bills in the upcoming session.
From the Portland Press Herald:
The marijuana OUI bill is being proposed by the Department of Public Safety, which wants to set a limit that will allow police officers to determine when a driver is too stoned behind the wheel.
Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, said she will introduce her fourth bill to tax and regulate the use of recreational marijuana. She said this bill will be the Legislature’s last chance to get out in front of two competing citizen initiatives that are likely to end up on the 2016 ballot. Two groups – the Marijuana Policy Project and Legalize Maine – plan to launch petition drives to collect signatures for 2016 referendums to legalize recreational drug use, as the states of Colorado and Washington have both done. The two proposals differ in approach and details, such as whether marijuana use should be limited to private homes or allowed in social clubs.
Russell also will sponsor a bill to remove the list of qualifying conditions for which patients can be approved to use medical marijuana. That would effectively leave it to patients and doctors to determine when the drug might help with a medical condition. Previous bills have been introduced to expand the number of approved conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
Hillary Lister, director of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, anticipates legislation specifying that the state cannot collect identifying information about medical marijuana patients. She said patients and caregivers are concerned about a recent rule change that requires medical providers to give patients a certification card that is generated through an online portal.
The Department of Health and Human Services also will propose amendments to the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act, but details of those amendments will not be released until the bill is finalized and the language becomes public, said department spokesman David Sorensen.
According to the Portland Press Herald, the issue of whether to implement a regulated and legal adult marijuana control system in South Portland, Maine took center stage Wednesday at a debate over the upcoming vote. Among the points of contention were whether marijuana is safer than alcohol and whether making marijuana legal will increase teen use.
South Portland Police Chief Edward Googins, a vehement opponent, and Maine political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, David Boyer, debated over the proposal.
Googins continued to perpetuate the misinformation that marijuana is not safer than alcohol.
Boyer, on the other hand, argued that marijuana use is safer than alcohol use, which according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is attributed to 37,000 deaths across the country annually. Conversely, he noted that no deaths have been attributed to marijuana overdoses.
“Despite this potential harm of alcohol, most would agree adults should be able to responsibly use alcohol. Why should an adult of age to consume alcohol be prohibited from using or from possessing marijuana?” Boyer stated. “It’s time to move beyond ‘Reefer Madness’ and pass laws that make sense.”
In regards to the second point of contention, both Googins and Boyer agreed on ensuring marijuana stay out of the hands of children and teens. However, Googins argued that making marijuana legal would normalize the substance’s use and make it easier for youth to obtain. Boyer countered that marijuana is already prevalent and circulating throughout the community. A better approach would be to focus on preventing marijuana use among teens by allowing adults to purchase marijuana through licensed and regulated businesses.
“I don’t think kids should use marijuana,” Boyer said. “We need to be honest with our kids. Being dishonest with our kids and telling them alcohol is safer than marijuana is dangerous.”
The Portland Press Herald reported that advocates of making marijuana legal kicked off a campaign yesterday in support of upcoming votes on the issue in Lewiston and South Portland.
The advocates, led by the Marijuana Policy Project, held a rally at Kennedy Park for those in favor of Lewiston’s Question 2, which would make the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older.
“Every day more and more people support making marijuana legal,” said David Boyer, Maine political director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “They see it makes more sense to have marijuana regulated instead of keeping it legal.”
Boyer also said the campaign in Lewiston is hoping to mobilize young voters, especially Bates College students, to the cause.
“Younger folks see that marijuana prohibition hasn’t worked. It’s done nothing to stop the flow of marijuana into our communities. They see the effects of marijuana and alcohol firsthand and they realize that marijuana is safer than alcohol,” Boyer stated.
Alexandra Gwillim, a Bates College freshman, joined Boyer at the campaign yesterday.
[S]he said she supports the campaign because, “I think the prohibition of marijuana perpetuates the binge-drinking culture of college. Legalizing marijuana is a good way to end that.”
The campaign intends to increase its presence in Lewiston during the next month as part of an ongoing effort to educate voters about the advantages of ending marijuana prohibition.
The Marijuana Policy Project filed a complaint Wednesday in the York County Superior Court calling for a temporary injunction that would require the York Board of Selectmen to place the query of recreational marijuana on the November ballot, according to the Portland Press Herald.
The board of selectman has twice refused to ask voters whether they want to allow the recreational use of marijuana, on the grounds that it is not lawful because the use of marijuana is still illegal under state law.
Regardless, supporters have collected close to 1,000 signatures on two separate petitions in their bid to put the question to town voters. However, the board voted 3-2 last week against sending the question to voters.
“The right to petition your government is the bedrock of democracy. For the selectman to ignore the will of their constituents goes against what our country is all about and that is why I signed on to this case,” Sharon DaBiere of York, a plaintiff in the complaint, said in a statement issued by the Marijuana Policy Project.
David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, thinks selectmen clearly went out of their way to disenfranchise York’s voters.
“We cannot stand by and let elected officials try to silence the people of York who would like to see marijuana regulated like alcohol.”
In its court filing, an attorney working with Citizens for a Safer York asks that a hearing on the complaint be held by Friday.
In just 25 days, Portland, Maine could become the first East Coast city in the nation to legalize marijuana for adults.
MPP is part of a coalition that's backing the local initiative (which is known as "Question 1"), and we recently made national headlines when we launched a series of ads on Portland buses and bus shelters that highlight the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol. Virtually every major media outlet in Maine covered the campaign, and when critics demanded that the ads be taken down, the state's largest newspaper defended our right to display them.
We've made no secret of our plans to support a statewide initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Maine in November 2016 (unless the state legislature does so first). Passing Question 1 in the state's most populous city will build an incredible amount of momentum and send a message that broader reform will soon come to the entire state.
Marijuana prohibitionists have been stirring up controversy since a line of bus advertisements supporting Question 1 in Portland, Maine were revealed on Tuesday. The advertisements serve to spark interest among voters and pose the question, “Why should adults be punished for making the safer choice to use marijuana over alcohol?“
Opponents, particularly from a group called 21 Reasons, argue that the ads are irresponsible and should be taken down. Here is what the Portland Press Herald had to say:
Ultimately, though, the issues raised by 21 Reasons are beside the point. The Marijuana Policy Project isn’t selling a drug or promoting its use; it’s asking voters to change a law. Political speech is among the most protected speech there is, and barring these or any other political messages from Metro buses would erode these crucial protections. [MPP emphasis added]
Unfortunately for misguided prohibitionists, the ads aren’t going anywhere. Portland voters will have the chance to decide Question 1, which would remove penalties for adult marijuana possession of up to 2.5 ounces, on November 5, 2013.
The Portland Press Herald interviewed David Boyer, the Maine political director of Marijuana Policy Project, about the specifics of Portland’s proposed measure to legalize marijuana for adults.
Following a vote by City Council on Monday, June 15, voters residing within city limits will be able to decide whether to remove all civil and criminal penalties for the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for adults 21 and older. Portland’s City Council voted 5-1 to send the citizen-initiated ordinance to voters, rather than immediately adopting it.
Watch the interview to hear Boyer’s explanation of how the law might work if the measure passes (and past trends in the city indicate that it will). Boyer said the bill’s primary purpose is to stop “punishing adults for using marijuana, a substance that is safer than alcohol.”