In November 2013, a marijuana ballot initiative passed in Portland, Maine. There is another upcoming marijuana ballot initiative for November 4, 2014. This time, the Marijuana Policy Project is supporting a similar ballot in York, Maine. At this time in York, signatures are being collected to allow the initiative to be put on this year’s ballot for a vote, called the Town of York Recreational Marijuana Legalization Measure.
- Allows recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 and older.
- Allows adults 21 and older to legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia.
- Prohibits recreational use if marijuana in public places.
- Prohibits adults under 21 and minors from using marijuana.
As per ballotpedia.org, when they asked the Marijuana Policy Director why York, Maine was chosen, it was described that York Maine would be well-located for potential future initiatives in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Given the notoriety of last year’s results, it is possible that we might see the marijuana legalization ballot initiative being put up for a vote this year, and perhaps we might see similar results.
Legal Effects of the Ballot Initiative
Just like in 2013, it is important to keep in mind that even if this new initiative passes, and despite the fact that the initiative is called a “recreational marijuana legalization measure,” that the legal effect of the initiative would not be to legalize marijuana. While advocates might be seeking complete legalization of pot, the Maine statutes are nowhere near this ideal.
First, the State statute will always supersede local ordinances when it comes to enforcing the law. This means that regardless if the local ordinance says the marijuana is legal, the State says otherwise.
In Maine, the use and possession of marijuana is legal only if you have a medical marijuana prescription card from a doctor. For more details, please look at the Maine Medical Marijuana Statute. This means that if you do not have a prescription card, then the following Maine Marijuana laws apply:
- Possession of marijuana up to 2.5 ounces is considered a civil violation. The penalty for a civil violation is a fine only and the violation going on your permanent adult record.
- Possession of Marijuana in Maine over 2.5 ounces is considered a criminal charge. The penalties for a criminal charge include potential fines, jail time, along with other potential ordered conditions, such as substance abuse treatment, probation, etc.
- Other activities involving marijuana, including selling it (i.e. trafficking), giving it to friends (i.e. furnishing), or growing marijuana plants without a medical marijuana prescription card (i.e. cultivating marijuana), are also considered criminal acts.
Under the ballot initiative York is looking at, the only “change” to the existing law would be to eliminate the type of marijuana possession that would result in a civil violation. Possession of marijuana over 2.5 ounces would still be considered a crime.
What would it take to make marijuana legal in Maine?
If the York ballot passes at the end of this year, there will be a small patchwork of localities in Maine that recognize the recreational use of marijuana as legal, while the overall State law would not recognize marijuana as legal. Notwithstanding Federal Law, the only thing that would make marijuana “legal” in Maine would be for there to be a Statewide initiative and a State government to support and enact such a change in the law. For such an effort, Maine might want to take a look at the implementation process applied in Colorado and Washington State, where marijuana has already been legalized.
A slow political process continues
While this ballot initiative in York might not trigger a Statewide change in Maine’s State marijuana laws, the ballot initiative might have an overall political impact. Perhaps if the York initiative is passed, and if the voters in the area feel that the new law does not hurt them or the community, then perhaps additional communities would be open to the idea in future similar ballot initiatives.
For More information
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