Turning Portland into Potland

11 years ago

Turning Portland into Potland

By Mike Lange

    Voters have spoken loud and clear in the People’s Republic of Portland.

    Well, at least 25 percent of them did. That was the turnout in last week’s off-year and offbeat election.
    As news followers already know by now, voters in Portland approved an ordinance that legalizes personal possession of small amounts of marijuana by a 9,921-4,823 vote.
    Normally, possession of up to 2.5 ounces of pot is a civil violation, much like a traffic offense. But the new statute would even erase this law from the books.
    Not so fast, however, says Police Chief Mike Sauschuck.
    First of all, a local ordinance can’t preempt state law. “If you smoke a joint, it’s a civil violation; if you pass it to the person next to you, it’s a criminal violation for furnishing; and if that person pays for the joint, it’s a criminal charge for selling marijuana,” he explained to the Portland Press-Herald.
    On the other hand, if you have a prescription for medical marijuana, there are more rules to follow – or less, depending on your point of view.
    As expected, the Portland — or Potland — referendum made the national news, drawing the attention of the Marijuana Policy Project. They’d like to get similar ordinances passed in other communities next year. Since there will be a gubernatorial election in 2014, voter turnout will obviously be higher than in a ho-hum year with only bond issues on the statewide ballot.
    There was a bill introduced in the legislature this year by Rep. Diane Russell of Portland — no surprise there — to legalize small amounts of weed and impose a tax on it. As expected, it went up in smoke. Even some liberal Democrats had reservations about making pot as accessible as a six-pack of Bud Light.
    To throw a huge monkey wrench into the whole marijuana issue, federal law still prohibits the use, possession, sale and cultivation of pot.
    Also, if you test positive for the main ingredient in marijuana — THC — you can either be denied employment or fired; and a medical marijuana prescription won’t save your job, either.
    I’ve never understood the fascination or glamour of pot. As a young adult during the so-called hippie generation, I smelled enough secondhand pot smoke to get higher than Borestone Mountain. But my preference at the time was Marlboro Lights.
    I’m also puzzled by the claim of improved health though legalized pot. You mean that inhaling a burning substance into your lungs for prolonged periods of time is good for you? To my knowledge, not many Maine doctors seem to be jumping on the bandwagon.
    Right now, we seem to have reasonable laws on pot possession and use. It balances the severity of the crime with law enforcement resources. Your average town cop is more concerned about the drunk who beats the daylight out of his spouse than the 20-something who gets glassy-eyed on weed once in a while.
    But I am glad I don’t live in Portland. There are enough drunks on the road between the Old Port and the airport. We don’t need to add more potheads to the mix.
    Mike Lange is a staff writer with the Piscataquis Observer.