Election Day 2013 found four US cities -- Portland, Maine and Ferndale, Jackson, and Lansing, Michigan -- voting on proposals to decriminalize or legalize personal possession of marijuana. In all four cities, marijuana reform passed by overwhelming margins.
Portland, Maine, voted on legalization of 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Voters supported that proposal with 67% of the vote. The proposal does not legalize cultivation or sale, but does allow for adults 21 and older in Portland city limits to “engage in activities for the purposes of ascertaining the possession of marijuana and paraphernalia,” which presumably allows for the sharing of marijuana between adults.
Ferndale, Jackson and Lansing, Michigan, all voted to amend their city charters so, “Nothing in the Code of Ordinances shall apply to the use, possession, and transfer of less than one ounce of marijuana, on private property, by a person who has attained 21 years.” Again, cultivation and sales are not allowed, but sharing would be allowed.
Ferndale passed its measure 2,332 to 1,035 -- 69% support. Jackson passed its measure 2,242 to 1,434 -- 61% support. Lansing passed its measure 8,550 to 5,339 -- 62% support. Aggregating these Michigan votes and adding in the 9,921 “yes” votes and 4,823 “no” votes from Portland’s referendum, we have four cities that approved marijuana legalization by a nearly two-to-one margin (64.6% overall support).
David Boyer, who directed the Portland Question 1 campaign for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) remarked, "Most Portlanders, like most Americans, are fed up with our nation's failed marijuana prohibition laws. We applaud Portland voters for adopting a smarter marijuana policy, and we look forward to working with city officials to ensure it is implemented.”
A recent attempt by Rep. Diane Russell to introduce statewide marijuana legalization in Maine for 2014 through the legislature was snuffed out last week by last-minute lobbying by the established medical marijuana dispensary industry’s lobbyists. Last night’s election victory in Portland, the state’s largest city, led Mr. Boyer to reiterate the need for statewide legalization.
"Now that marijuana is legal for adults in Maine's largest city, there is an even greater need for comprehensive reform at the state level,” said Mr. Boyer. “By regulating marijuana like alcohol, we could take sales out of the hands of drug cartels in the underground market and put them behind the counters of licensed, tax-paying businesses. It's time to move beyond prohibition and adopt a more sensible approach."
If legislators in Maine do not heed the results of Portland’s vote and present legalization through the legislature in 2014, MPP will be organizing an initiative drive to legalize statewide in 2016. Michigan does not yet appear to be on the radar for 2016 legalization, but these results may cause reformers to take a second look. Isn’t it nice to not worry whether a marijuana reform will make the ballot and pass -- but to wonder just how many will pass.