Northeastern States Targeted for Marijuana Legalization

Posted: Oct 20, 2013 2:38 PM

Following legalization victories in Washington and Colorado, marijuana legalization advocates are focusing their efforts on Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

While marijuana use and possession is still illegal on a federal level, the Department of Justice announced in August that they would not prosecute marijuana users in Colorado and Washington, where recreational use of the drug was approved by voters in November 2012. A vote this November in Portland, Maine would legalize the possession (but not the sale or purchase) of 2.5 ounces of marijuana for adults over the age of 21.

If the ballot measure is approved this November, the victory would be more symbolic than anything else, as Maine law and federal law both prohibit the possession of marijuana, and police tend to target people actively selling the drug versus those who simply possess it. The vote is being viewed as an "indicator" about New Englander's views on marijuana legalization.

If the ballot measure passes, it will be largely symbolic because it won't override state and federal laws. Pot possession is a low priority for Portland police, but they'll continue enforcing state law, Police Chief Michael Sauschuk said. Besides, possessing 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana is already a civil offense under state law, where violators are issued a ticket and fined, he said.

Every state in New England has some sort of medicinal marijuana law, and all but New Hampshire has decriminalized possession of certain amounts of marijuana. Decriminalization means that a person would have to pay a fine, not be sentenced to prison, if caught possessing the drug.

There have been no public polls regarding the Portland ballot initiative, but it is expected to pass.

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