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!
The Marijuana Policy Project will be hosting another great cannabis industry mixer in Portland. Lots of new and exciting developments are happening in Maine, and this event will be a perfect place to meet other folks in the industry. Here are the details:
What: Cannabis Industry Mixer
When: Thursday, February 7, 2019
Where: Cloudport CoWorking, located at 63 Federal Street, Portland, ME 04101
Why: To network with other Mainers connected to the cannabis industry
Food and drink will be complimentary thanks to our sponsor, Maine Cannabis Chronicle. Maine Cannabis Chronicle is an industry/cultural magazine launching this spring in Maine!
So please, register today for your free tickets, and we will see you in a few weeks!
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Maine filed a lawsuit in Kennebec County Superior Court on Thursday challenging the Secretary of State’s decision to disqualify the measure from the November ballot. According to the suit, which is now available online at http://bit.ly/1pzNhVO, state officials improperly invalidated thousands of signatures of registered Maine voters and unlawfully denied citizens their constitutional right to vote on the measure.
Campaign leader David Boyer and attorney Scott Anderson announced the details of the suit at a news conference in the office of Portland law firm Verrill Dana. Anderson is representing a group of Maine voters who signed the petition in support of the initiative, including Boyer, State Sen. Eric Brakey, and State Rep. Diane Russell, among others.
Last week, the Secretary of State’s Office announced that the proposed initiative did not qualify for the November ballot. 61,123 signatures of registered Maine voters were required, and state officials determined that initiative backers submitted 51,543 valid signatures. In a document explaining their determination, state officials said they invalidated more than 5,000 petitions, which included more than 26,000 total petition signatures, solely due to their finding that the signature of a notary did not “match” the signature the state has on file. It appears more than 17,000 signatures were otherwise valid signatures of registered Maine voters.
According to the initiative backers’ lawsuit, the Secretary of State’s decision is flawed because the disputed signatures do, in fact, match those on file and because the Secretary of State acted outside his authority in invalidating the petitions.
The Secretary of State did not provide any factual findings to explain how the notaries’ signatures on the petitions differed from those on file, and neither the state constitution nor the governing statute authorize the Secretary of State to disqualify otherwise valid petitions based on a subjective comparison of signatures performed by a non-expert employee. The suit also points out instances in which the Secretary of State invalidated petitions because the signature of the individual who notarized them did not match the signature on file, but validated other petitions in which the same individual signed as a circulator using the same signature.
MPP's Executive Director Rob Kampia recently published his thoughts on how marijuana policy will factor into the 2016 presidential elections:
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) recently released its quadrennial report card detailing the most prominent presidential candidates' positions on marijuana policy.
To be sure, most voters aren't single-issue marijuana voters (on either side of the legalization issue). Most voters make their decisions after processing a soup of positions and paid ads. So MPP's intent is to inform a piece of that upcoming decision-making process, rather than claiming that marijuana legalization is the main issue for many voters.
That said, it's worth noting that hardcore supporters of legalization are now finally capable of having a measurable impact on campaigns. For example, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) raised more than $100,000 at a marijuana-specific fundraising event in Portland on June 5. This is real money for a U.S. House race.
MPP's early donations to Peter Shumlin (D-VT) almost certainly made the difference in his first primary contest for governor in 2010. And during the 2011-2012 election cycle, MPP was the largest donor to his campaign, edging out donations from AFSCME, Coca-Cola, and the Democratic Governors Association.
As for the presidential race, many members of the marijuana industry -- which is generally defined as marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under various states' laws -- are supporting Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). At a group fundraising meeting at the National Cannabis Industry Association's annual conference in Denver on June 30, a room of canna-business leaders discussed the issue with Sen. Paul and donated more than $100,000 to his campaign. (This is real money for any presidential campaign.) MPP had previously donated $15,000 to Sen. Paul's three campaign committees.
Setting aside the ability of the cannabis industry to have some degree of impact on the current presidential race, what are the positions of some of the more interesting candidates?
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.
Homeowners’ associations cannot legally ban their members from using marijuana in their homes in states where it is legal to do so, but some HOAs are attempting to do just that, claiming that marijuana use is a nuisance, reports the Gazette. If people can see or smell their neighbor using or growing marijuana, their HOA has the right to regulate it as a nuisance or child risk. Richard Thompson, who runs a management company that concentrates in homeowner associations in Portland, related these regulations to others made in Oregon. "The fact that people may be legally entitled to smoke doesn't mean they can do it wherever they want, any more than they could walk into a restaurant and light up a cigarette."
According to Thompson, neighbor conflicts have increased with regards to marijuana use recently. More marijuana users keep their windows open and smoke outside during spring and summer months, prompting many complaints from neighbors. A Brighton, Colorado resident recently discovered this after he planted a hemp plot. The homeowners’ association took issue with this and ordered him to get rid of it or face a fine. Though he tried to explain that hemp was not marijuana, he was still turned down. He then sold his plants to hemp activists rather than throwing them out. The activists offered to pay his homeowner fines instead, but the resident opted to live peacefully with his neighbors. He said, "I had people calling up and saying, 'It's just a shame; we'll pay your fines all the way through to the end.' But I decided in the end not to fight it. At the end of the day, I live here."
UPDATE: The York Board of Selectmen has scheduled a public hearing on the petition during their next meeting on Monday, July 28.
A petition that would allow adults to use marijuana has gotten the required amount of signatures and has been submitted to the Board of Selectmen, Seacoast Online reports. The Board of Selectmen in York is scheduled to consider and possibly take action on the petition later today. According to MPP Maine Political Director David Boyer, the petition needed 100 signatures in order to be submitted to the Board of Selectmen. It received 174 signatures and was submitted on June 19. Should the Board decide against holding a public hearing on the petition, advocates would have 30 days to collect 600 signatures in order to bring the petition to a public vote.
The petition, if passed, would allow York residents over 21 to use or be in possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana. It would remove penalties for marijuana possession and allow individuals to consume it privately. Public use would still be prohibited, according to organizers. This is similar to an initiative that MPP helped to pass in Portland, Maine last year that allowed adults to be in possession of 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana. The decision on York’s petition is forthcoming and should be given by the end of the day.
Facing a reelection race in Oregon this fall, Portland Rep. Earl Blumenauer aired a television ad on April 25 focusing on marijuana legalization. Blumenauer’s heavily Democratic district lends him an easy reelection, but that hasn’t diluted his fervor to advocate for his signature issue.
In the ad, Blumenauer points out how "our marijuana laws don't work and cost the government billions." Later, he calls for the federal government to "let states set their own laws -- tax it, use the money to fund education and let the police focus on real drug abuse."
It is unclear how many ads he plans to run, but Blumenauer said he plans to spend six figures on campaign advertising that will broadcast not only in Oregon, but online and in other states, drawing national attention to the issue.
Blumenauer said the purpose of his ad isn’t just about reelection -- it’s about transparency and letting his constituents know what he is doing in Congress. In a response to releasing the ad, Blumenauer told The Oregonian that, while he appreciates letting the states move forward on marijuana laws, the Obama administration is doing the "absolute least the federal government can do."
A city ordinance in Portland, Maine went into effect last Friday, December 6th that will allow those individuals who are 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. The government passed the ordinance in November, while similar ordinances passed in three cities in Michigan. While residents are still subject to state and federal laws regarding marijuana possession, they sent local law enforcement a clear message about their priorities: voters in Portland do not want penalties associated with marijuana possession. Unfortunately, the Portland Police Department has not listened.
There were only 54 marijuana citations given out last year in Portland. While Mayor Brennan expects the number to decrease this year, Police Chief Michael Sauschuck wants his officers to continue to use their own discretion when deciding whether or not to issue marijuana citations pursuant to state laws, just as they have always done. Even though the police have handed out a modest number of citations in the past, their refusal to change their policies disregards the will of the voters. Furthermore, studies show that police officers arrest minorities at disproportionately high rates for marijuana possession, an inequality that citizens and legislators can combat by actually removing penalties associated with possession.
Although some resistance to implementation of the city ordinance in Portland exists, State Representative Diane Russell is optimistic about the future of Maine’s marijuana policy.
She said it’s inevitable that others will follow Portland’s lead. Already, possession of marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington state.
‘‘It sends a message to people across the country that Maine is going to be leading the way developing a more rational policy than prohibition,’’ she said.
In November, voters in Jackson, Michigan voted to pass a city ordinance that decriminalized possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. The ordinance applies to those 21 and older on private property. Now, Jackson police are determining how to enforce that law and what the law means by “private property. “
Jackson Police Chief Matthew Heins said the city police department has advised its officers to follow the new law.
"First and foremost, it was my objective to enforce what voters voted on," Heins said. "We struggled with some details in the law, but it's the law."
Some of the subjects in the law Heins and others debated were what constitutes private property.
"Target is private property, for example," Heins said. "But we don't think it was the public's intention to allow a 21-year-old to possess marijuana at your local Target."
While the ordinance has removed criminal penalties for possession of marijuana, it is still unclear to what extent state and federal law will be enforced. As in Portland, Maine, the city has changed its laws, but state and federal laws remain the same. The Jackson County Prosecutor’s office has stated that it will continue to prosecute cases pursuant to those laws, and Chief Heins admits that there will always be extenuating circumstances that could lead to an arrest despite the new ordinance.
However, despite any extenuating circumstances and confusion regarding the parameters of the law, it seems clear that the Jackson Police will respect the public’s voice and permit marijuana possession on (most) private property.