Pubdate: Tue, 18 Jun 2013
Source: Portland Press Herald (ME)
Copyright: 2013 MaineToday Media, Inc.
Author: Randy Billings


The City Council's public hearing comes in response to a petition for
legalized recreational marijuana.

PORTLAND - The City Council voted unanimously Monday to hold a public
hearing July 15 on whether the city should legalize recreational use
of marijuana.

The ordinance is proposed by a group of residents who collected more
than 3,200 signatures to put the issue to voters. Only 1,500 valid
signatures were needed to put the question on the ballot. Last week,
the City Clerk's Office certified 2,508 signatures.

The proposed ordinance would allow adults 21 and older to possess as
much as 2.5 ounces of marijuana.

It would prohibit smoking of marijuana in public and allow landlords
to prohibit it in their apartments.

City attorney Danielle West-Chuhta said the council can take one of
three courses of action after holding the hearing: adopt the ordinance
proposed by the residents; put the ordinance to voters; or offer an
alternative alongside the ordinance proposed by residents.

If the council puts the ordinance to voters, a vote must be held
within 90 days, West-Chuhta said. The city could wait until November
or hold a special election, she said.

It's unclear what effect -- other than a political statement -- the
ordinance would have. Typically, a municipality cannot adopt an
ordinance that runs contrary to state and federal laws.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law. It is also illegal under Maine
law, unless it is recommended by a doctor to treat certain illnesses.

If the ordinance passes, it will put Portland police in a tough

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said before Monday's meeting that
police are taking a wait-and-see approach to the citizen-led effort.

"It's very difficult, from a law enforcement perspective, to answer
questions about what we would do one way or the other when it's purely
hypothetical at this point," Sauschuck said.

Last fall, voters in Washington state and Colorado approved legal
recreational use of marijuana. Supporters in Maine said a similar vote
in Portland would create momentum to do the same here.

The Maine Legislature recently rejected a statewide referendum to
legalize, regulate and tax marijuana much as it does alcohol.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt