By Phillip Smith, StopTheDrugWar.Org
There is a marijuana legalization bill pending in the Maine legislature, but some activists in the state's largest city aren't waiting for elected officials to get the ball rolling. The Portland Green Independent Committee was set to deliver a request for a municipal legalization petition drive at the city clerk's office late last week.
"We are still waiting to hear back from corporation counsel," committee chair Tom MacMillan told the Portland Daily Sun. "We are going to begin collecting signatures soon on a citizens' initiative to legalize marijuana in the city of Portland."
Once the clerk certifies the petition, organizers will have 180 days to gather 1,500 valid voter signatures. If the signatures are approved, a citywide vote could happen as early as November.
The final language has yet to be approved, but the Greens are expected to call for the legalization of the possession of up to 2 ½ ounces, as well as the possession of pot-smoking paraphernalia. Under current Maine law, possession of up to 1 ¼ ounces is decriminalized, punishable as a civil infraction with a maximum fine of $250.
While Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) has prefiled a legalization bill (LR-21), the Greens aren't counting on it passing this year, and they aren't waiting to find out if it does.
"Any progress that we've seen on this has come from voters," Green Independent city councilor David Marshall told the Portland Press Herald Tuesday. And while Maine already has decriminalization, "It's still a crime. It still affects people's lives."
The timeline now is up to city officials, the Greens said. "We should probably see some of those petitions on the streets next week," Marshall predicted.