Even though possession of marijuana is now officially legal in the city of Portland, local police say they still plan to bust people for weed.
Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said earlier in the week that even though his department had no issues with the city’s marijuana supporters getting out of hand while celebrating their legislative victory on Tuesday, his officers will remain steadfast about issuing citations for marijuana possession when necessary in accordance with the state law.
The police chief was quick to point out that recreational use of marijuana is still considered illegal in the state of Maine as well as in the eyes of the federal government, which he insists trumps the newfound pot-friendly ordinances in Portland.
"This doesn't change anything for us in terms of enforcement," he said. "But the actual statistics show this is a low priority for us."
Therefore, even considering the city’s new marijuana laws, which make possession of less than 2.5 ounces of weed perfectly acceptable, Portland authorities still have the right to issue citations that reflect the state law -- an offense that doesn’t carry a punishment of jail time, but could still mean pesky court dates and fines.
Maybe the Portland police need to read this.
The good news is, it does not appear that Portland police are feverishly gunning to bust the average marijuana user: the department only handed out 54 civil infractions for marijuana between the summer of 2012 and 2013.
Historically, at least under the supervision of Chief Sauschuck, the Portland police department has developed a reputation for being somewhat accommodating to hot issues. Police recently agreed not to enforce a controversial law in Portland against panhandling and demonstrations throughout the city -- the new marijuana ordinance is not expected to be met with any more prejudice.
"Officers will use their discretion,” said Sauschuck when asked about how he plans to enforce the marijuana laws under the new city ordinance.
David Boyer, Maine political director for the national Marijuana Policy Project, says if Portland cooperates the same way Denver did in Colorado, the state will likely be poised for the legalization of recreational marijuana in the near future.