While it is certainly nice that the city of Portland has shown its symbolic support for the legalization of marijuana, I believe your editorial of support for the measure does a disservice to your readers. Firstly, as our friends at The Maine Campus corrected themselves over a similar report over a decade ago (“Legal Affairs” 10/28/02) informing readers that, in fact, “Possession of a usable amount of marijuana is not a criminal offense in Maine. [In a hypothetical case of possession], you were charged with a civil infraction, not a criminal offense. Therefore, in your case, you remain eligible for federal financial aid. When you fill out the FAFSA form you should not indicate that you have a conviction. A similar situation exists with the civil infraction of possession of drug paraphernalia.”
Of course, who cares right? This is all moot now that possession of up to 2.5 ounces is now legal in Portland right? Well, that’s the other problem: it’s not really. As the Bangor Daily News reported in their informative editorial before the election (“Portland’s marijuana vote might not make it a mile-high city — yet” 11/1/13), “As the city contemplates the marijuana ordinance, voters should realize the Portland Police Department has discretion in the matter. The department could choose, as a matter of policy, to enforce the ordinance or disregard it in favor of enforcing a state law that’s in clear conflict. Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuk told The Associated Press last month his department plans to enforce state law but that enforcing marijuana possession laws is already a low priority for the agency.”
Was supporting the referendum a good idea? Sure. Should you have devoted a little editorial thought and space to South Portland’s waterfront protection ordinance? Probably. In any case, I hope that USM’s Free Press will be more honest about what ballot measures do and do not do in the future.
USM Alumnus, 2010