PORTLAND, ME — Voters in Maine’s largest city approved a measure Tuesday to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults 21 and older, but the chief of police says that the vote won’t change anything in regards to how the department handles marijuana offenses.
Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck says the department will continue to enforce state marijuana laws, which Sauschuck said “pre-empt local ordinances,” and officers will issue citations for marijuana possession when necessary.
“This doesn’t change anything for us in terms of enforcement,” Chief Michael Sauschuck said Wednesday.
Under state law, the possession of 2.5 ounces of marijuana or less has been decriminalized to a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $600.
When Portland’s Question 1, passed by almost 70% of voters on Tuesday, takes effect in 30 days, Sauschuck says officers will continue to “use their discretion” with dealing with minor marijuana possession offenses.
Chief Sauschuck says that the Portland Police Department did not consider small time marijuana possession offenses a high law enforcement priority before the initiative passed. Since June 2011, police officers in Portland have averaged writing a little over one marijuana possession ticket per week.
An estimated 67 percent of Portland voters decided Tuesday in favor of a citywide ballot initiative, Question 1, eliminating penalties for adults who possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana or paraphernalia within city limits.
Earlier this year, an effort by Maine Rep. Dianne Russell to legalize and regulate retail marijuana sales fell only four votes shy of passing in the House, and similar legislation is being planned to be introduced for 2014.
“With Tuesday’s vote, it’s now clear Mainers are ready to move forward with responsibly regulating all adult marijuana sales,” Rep. Russell said following Portland’s vote Tuesday.
“We are calling on city officials to respect the will of the voters, and state leaders to get ahead of this issue with a Maine approach to taxing and regulating this commodity, much like we do alcohol. It’s time to stop rewarding drug cartels and start rewarding responsible business owners, while funding important state priorities with new tax revenue.”