One Tuesday, citizens in Portland voted in favor of decriminalizing the possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use. This is a big development because Portland is now the only city on the East Coast to have a law like this. Proponents of the law are hoping that this will set an example for the rest of the State to follow. As it is, Maine is already very progressive when it comes to marijuana use. In 1999, medical marijuana was legalized and possession of small amount of the drug is only a civil offense throughout the state meaning violators will only get a ticket and a fine.
The Bangor Daily News reports the decriminalization law in Portland will go into effect in 30 days and will make it no longer a crime to possess 2.5 ounces of the drug for personal use. Marijuana use in public is still illegal as is selling it without a license and possessing large quantities. Still, many feel that this is a big step.
Local police, however, are saying that this law will not affect how they approach drug crimes in the City. The fact is that marijuana is still illegal under federal and state laws and police say those laws take precedence. Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck had this to say about the new law's passing:
“This doesn't change anything for us in terms of enforcement,”
He went on to say that this small scale marijuana use was never a high priority for police to begin with. The law will not make that much difference to police because most officers do not see personal marijuana users as being worth their time and were not enforcing pot laws to begin with. Chief Sauschuck told reporters that “officers will use their discretion” when dealing with small scale marijuana crimes in Portland in the future.
It is also believed by some that this new law will actually increase the black market drug trade. Marijuana will be available to the public in licensed stores, but the price will likely be inflated. This will lead people to obtain pot the old way of going through illegal dealers. With this law in place, more people will likely be using the drug which means more people may seek these underground sources. This leads some to think the passing of this law will actually have the reverse affect and attract more drug crimes to the city.
Passing this law is a step in the right direction in order to decrease small scale drug crimes and decriminalize pot use. Marijuana is often reported as being safer than alcohol and there are some facts to back that up. Taxpayers should not be responsible for enforcing laws that punish individuals for consuming a small amount of pot in the privacy of their own home. Based on what the Portland police have to say about the new law, it does not seem like its passing will have a noticeable effect on citizens' everyday lives; and that's a good thing.