Following similar reform approved by Oregon voters last November, Maine lawmakers have filed a bill that would decriminalize possession of all illicit drugs.
Proposed Bill Would Decriminalize Drugs in Maine
With 2020 serving as the deadliest year in recorded history regarding drug overdoses, lawmakers across the country are stripping down the policies that defined the War on Drugs and approaching the epidemic as a public health issue.
In the last month, representatives in Rhode Island have discussed legislation that would end criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs, and Vermont lawmakers have proposed a similar bill, replacing penalties with a fine.
Now, Maine seems to be the next state considering drug decriminalization, with Rep. Anne Perry (D – Calais) sponsoring legislation that would “make possession of scheduled drugs for personal use a civil penalty,” punishable by a fine of up to $100. Even then, people unable to pay would be subject to an alternative punishment for which, “the court may refer the person to a licensed health care provider or drug treatment facility. . . to conduct an evidence-based assessment for proposed treatment appropriate for a person with substance use disorder.”
While the proposed measure doesn’t specify up to what amount of drugs would be decriminalized — which is expected to be sorted out later on in the lawmaking process — the purpose of the reforms is clear.
“Exposure to treatment eventually gets them to treatment, but if you don’t expose them to that, they don’t know where to go,” said Rep. Perry to Maine’s Sun Journal.
In that same vein, the bill would also protect people who are seeking medical assistance for overdose emergencies or access to naloxone, a medication that’s used to rapidly reverse opioid overdoses. The language in the measure specifies full “exemption from criminal liability for reporting a drug-related emergency or administering naloxone.”
Maine’s’ Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is expected to schedule a hearing for the proposed measures in the coming weeks. For future updates on Maine’s progress toward decriminalization, continue checking back at The Weed Blog.
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