An ordinance is being proposed in the city of Portland to decriminalize marijuana. Citizens will get to make the final decision by voting. So far support for this ordinance has been enthusiastic. As an article in The Daily Chronic explains:
Citizens for a Safer Portland, a coalition of organizations that include the Portland Green Independent Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, the Libertarian Party of Maine and the Marijuana Policy Project, collected nearly double the 1,500 signatures that were required to place the matter before the City Council.
This ordinance will make it legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess up to 2.5 ounces of the drug as well as paraphernalia. This law will only apply within the city limits and will still make it illegal to use marijuana in public spaces including schools and parks. Voting for the ordinance will not be until November 9th, but until then citizens are rallying to gain support for their side.
The argument is being made that marijuana arrests unfairly target minorities such as blacks and spend too much tax payer money. An estimated $8.9 million was spent on drug law enforcement in Maine in 2010 and marijuana charges accounted for about half of those arrests. Some Portland criminal defense attorneys feel that this is a great idea. Innocent people are arrested far too often for marijuana offenses.
For now, marijuana continues to be illegal in Portland and allover Maine and a possession charge can lead to jail time, steep fines, probation, community service and more. Possession of the amount of marijuana mentioned in this ordinance will currently lead to a fine and a misdemeanor charge. Processing these misdemeanor drug offenders uses up a significant amount of the courts time. It also creates a hassle for those accused of the crimes and costs them money to defend themselves from these petty charges.