This November 2014 election, marijuana initiatives were on the ballot in South Portland and Lewiston. The results from this vote were split between the two cities. Lewiston rejected the marijuana initiative. South Portland approved the marijuana initiative. What does this result mean for these two cities? And what does this result mean for future marijuana ballot initiatives in other Maine cities or towns?
Changes for Marijuana in South Portland
While Lewiston will not experience any changes in the way marijuana is treated, South Portland will experience a change similar to the one experienced last year in the neighboring City of Portland. In review, the changes South Portland will include:
- Permit recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 and older.
- Permit adults 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia.
- Prohibit recreational use of marijuana in public places.
- Prohibit adults under 21 and minors from using marijuana.
This type of policy can be referred to as “treating marijuana like alcohol,” in which adults are permitted to use the substance responsibly, but young adults under 21 and minors are not permitted to use it.
The City of Portland has had this policy as a City Ordinance for the past year. Since South Portland is the City next door, it might have made sense for voters there to accept the same ordinance for their city.
Marijuana Still an Illegal Drug in Maine
Maine State Law supersedes city ordinance when it comes to enforcing the law. This means that even though the local city ordinance says that recreational use of marijuana is legal, the State law says otherwise. In Maine, the State laws concerning marijuana include:
- Medical Marijuana Prescription: Growing, use and possession of marijuana is legal only if you have a medical marijuana prescription from a doctor and you stay within the restrictions of the Medical Marijuana laws. If you do not have a prescription, marijuana is an illegal drug.
- Civil Violation for Marijuana: 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.
- Criminal Possession of Marijuana: 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.
- Cultivating Marijuana: Growing marijuana plants is considered a criminal offense. Depending on how many plants being grown, the charge can be either a felony or a misdemeanor. The penalties for a conviction can include fines, jail time, as well as other penalties.
- Trafficking Marijuana: Trafficking marijuana is transporting and/or selling marijuana to another person. Most trafficking offenses are considered felonies.
- Furnishing Marijuana: Furnishing marijuana is giving marijuana to another person. Most marijuana furnishing cases are considered misdemeanors.
Will More Marijuana ballots be on the Horizon in Maine?
Despite the mixed results this year, it is likely that advocates will continue to push for similar ballots in different Maine cities or towns. With Portland and South Portland, Maine now has a small region that recognizes the legal use of recreational marijuana. Perhaps in coming election cycles we might see marijuana ballot initiative efforts in neighboring cities to Portland and South Portland, such as Scarborough or Falmouth, who would have seen how the new city ordinance worked. If voters do not see a perceived change in their communities, then they might be more amenable to approving future marijuana ballot initiatives.
Will Maine Legalize Marijuana Because of the Recent Vote?
The only way that marijuana would become legalized statewide would be for the Maine Legislature to pass a law and for the Governor to sign it into law. Overall, with only two cities having legalized recreational use of marijuana, this might not be enough to trigger a statewide policy change. For such a significant change to take place, the experiences of other States that have already legalized marijuana might be instructive, such as Colorado and Washington State.
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