AUGUSTA, Maine — The Lewiston City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to place a measure on the November ballot that would legalize marijuana possession within city limits.
Lewiston is one of three Maine cities grappling with the question of legalizing recreational marijuana since Portland voters overwhelmingly voted to do so in November 2013. Voters in South Portland will also vote this November on marijuana legalization and advocates have turned in petitions in York that could lead to a question on the ballot there, as well. The local referenda are part of a broader plan of the Marijuana Policy Project and other groups to legalize recreational marijuana statewide. The group hopes to put the question to statewide voters in 2016.
The referendum in Lewiston was spurred by a petition drive by Citizens for a Safer Maine, which gave the City Council the option of legalizing pot on its own or sending it to a citywide vote. The initiative would make it legal for adults 21 or older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, though it would remain illegal to consume or display marijuana in public. The measure also includes a statement in support of regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol at the state level, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
“While collecting signatures, we encountered a lot of interest in exploring alternatives to prohibition,” said David Boyer, Maine’s political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a written statement. “People are sick of hearing about adults getting punished for using a less-harmful substance than alcohol.”
Despite the lopsided vote last year in Portland, where 67 percent of voters approved legalization, there are pockets of resistance, including from some law enforcement agencies and the state’s medical marijuana community.
A group called SAM Maine is among the leading organizations against legalization.
“Legalizing marijuana would take us in the wrong direction,” said the group Wednesday in a written statement. “It would put up barriers to learning and thus barriers to opportunity. We expect in November that Lewiston voters will rally to stand up for their community and say ‘not here.’”