By Steve Elliott
Portland, Maine on Tuesday became the first city on the East Coast to legalize marijuana, with voters overwhelmingly approving ballot Question 1, an ordinance removing all penalties for adult possession of small amounts of cannabis.
Unofficial totals showed the proposal passing with 67 percent of the vote, 9,921 to 4,823, reports Randy Billings at the Portland Press Herald.
The city ordinance allows people 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, and is seen by many activists as a foot in the door to statewide legalization. The immediate effects, however, are unclear.
Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck has already said that regardless of the vote, officers will continue enforcing Maine state law, under which possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis can result in fines of $350 to $1,000, along with a civil summons. Selling or providing pot to others can result in criminal charges.
The city should respect the voters and not arrest or fine adults for marijuana possession, according to David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "We call on city officials to stop the bleeding," Boyer said. "It's time for the state of Maine to follow Portland."