Maine Lawmakers Seek To Stop City Voters From Depenalizing Pot

Voters in Portland, Maine, the Pine Tree State’s largest city, made history in 2013 when they decided in favor of a municipal initiative legalizing the personal possession of marijuana by adults. Portland was the first ever east coast city to approve such a local depenalization measure, but it was not the last. In November, residents of South Portland similarly decided in favor of local legalization at the ballot box.

Could this be the start of a trend? Not if some Maine state lawmakers have their way.

In response to local activists’ success at the ballot box, a coalition of 10 House and Senate members has introduced legislation to halt democracy in its tracks.

Earlier this month, they sponsored LD 167: An Act To Prohibit a Municipality from Holding a Referendum To Legalize the Recreational Use of Marijuana. The proposed measure seeks to do exactly what its title says.

As introduced, the act seeks to amend state election laws by forbidding municipal voters from deciding issues pertaining to the legalization the adult use of marijuana at the ballot—or even considering the subject at a town meeting.

It states, “A petition that seeks to legalize the recreational use of marijuana within a municipality may not be approved for inclusion in the warrant or considered at a town meeting.”

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on State and Local Government. The Senate has yet to take any action on the measure.

While it remains too early in the 2015 legislative session to definitively tell whether this blatantly undemocratic proposal will gain political traction, such momentum would appear unlikely. In 2013, House lawmakers fell only four votes shy of passing legislation that sought to put pot legalization before all Maine voters and House lawmakers this year are set to introduce legislation calling for the plant’s regulation. If that proposal fails, Maine voters in 2016 will likely get to decide the fate of the issue, whether state lawmakers like it or not.

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