Monday, January 21st, 2019

Portland’s marijuana legality won’t protect you

Hannah Lyon | The Free Press

Posted on April 20, 2015 in News
By Krysteana Scribner

The laws and regulations concerning marijuana are complex and have been for many years. Last fall, the city of Portland legalized marijuana for recreational use, but individuals caught for possession of can still be issued a citation because of state and federal laws.

According to Bobby Lewis, a membership assistant at the Marijuana Policy Project based in Washington, D.C., which works on changing laws for adults to consume marijuana safely and legally, marijuana is currently legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska – as well as the city of Portland.

“Nationwide, more Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year than for all violent crimes combined,” said Lewis. “The statistics gathered indicate that a marijuana user is arrested every 48 seconds just for possessing marijuana.”

Statewide, the legality of marijuana changes depending on where you smoke it. In Maine, smoking marijuana anywhere except Portland is against the law. In Portland, adults can legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, but according to the Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, officers will continue to enforce state law that makes possession of up to 2.5 ounces a civil violation.

“I would simply suggest that people do not possess marijuana in Portland at all. I would suggest not to even take the risk,” said Sauschuck. “The state law says don’t possess marijuana and although it’s legal locally,federal law supersedes state law and state supersedes local ordinances. I would hate to see anyone confused because they don’t know the real case.”

Even though marijuana is legal in Portland, charges can vary depending on the situation. A USM student who preferred to stay anonymous explained that although marijuana was legalized in Portland, he doesn’t fully understand the legality because you can still get in trouble for smoking it.

“I know that technically it is illegal under federal law,” he said. “If you were caught smoking by police I think it would probably be up to the officer that caught you on whether or not you would get in trouble.”

Regardless of the change in city laws, the use and possession of marijuana is still illegal at USM. According to Dean of Students Joy Pufhal, the legal possession of marijuana (this includes the legal amount for Portland and medical marijuana) on campus could result in a civil summons. She explained that there is no change in marijuana use on campus since Portland changed its laws because the federal law has not changed. If USM violated the Drug Free Schools Act, the institution would be at risk of losing all federal financial aid dollars.

“A student held responsible for possession of a small usable amount of marijuana on campus would generally be placed on a housing contact probation,” said Pufhal. “Any future marijuana violation during their time at USM would be putting their housing and ability to continue as a student in jeopardy.”

With all of these laws that have been put into place, many students have differing opinions on the legalization of marijuana. A survey conducted by the Free Press asked 300 students their opinions on the legality of marijuana. 42.3 percent of students wrote that they smoke marijuana, and 34 percent had done so on campus. Data from USM’s police logs show that out of the 97 marijuana odors that were reported on campus, 39 of those were for Upton Hasting.

Another anonymous USM student explained that the use of marijuana should be legal, but only for adults 18 and older. She explained that with the legalization of marijuana, individuals would have the opportunity to see what it actually does for the body and mind.

“I am currently on medications for a major depressive disorder, but the side effects of them leave me with no appetite and no sexual drive,” she said. “These side effects get better with my smoking of marijuana. I completely, 100 percent support the legalization of this drug.”

A senior mathematics major, who would prefer to stay anonymous, said that although it’s possible to get addicted to marijuana, the relaxing effects of the drug make for a much safer experience than someone who indulges in heavy drinking or smokes cigarettes for a long time.

“The World Health Organization has estimated that over 100 million deaths in the 20th century were attributed to tobacco smoking,”  he said.. “Zero deaths have been attributed to marijuana smoking alone in the 20th century. So I believe it should be legalized.”

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