Tomorrow voters in Portland, Maine will be asked to decide whether they want to make it legal for adults 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. The November 5 vote is being watched nationwide as a potential bellwether for the relaxation of marijuana laws in the Northeast.
What the ordinance wouldn’t do is set up a structure to regulate and tax the cultivation and sale of marijuana. That can’t be done at the municipal level, so those functions would remain on the black market or under the state’s regulatory structure for medical marijuana. But the ordinance includes a resolution of support for marijuana’s taxation and regulation at the state and federal levels.
Maine law already considers marijuana possession a civil -- not a criminal -- offense; it subjects offenders with 2.5 ounces or less of the drug to a fine of up to $1,000 depending on the amount and no jail time.
The advocates for the Portland ballot measure haven’t hidden their intent to parlay success in Portland into success statewide, either through another try at legislation or through a citizens’ initiative that brings a measure to a statewide referendum vote.