Maine is set to become the latest state to try passing local initiatives to make adult marijuana use the lowest law enforcement priority. A state group with affiliations with the Marijuana Policy Project, the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative (MMPI), has submitted petitions to officials in five western Maine towns, and is already set to go to the polls in Sumner. Town meetings in Farmington, Paris, West Paris and Athens, where petitions have been delivered to local officials, may also consider the initiatives next year.
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Maine activists are starting small, but thinking big, MMPI executive director Jonathan Leavitt told the Associated Press. "The purpose of the ordinance is to let the county, state and federal government know that many people believe the marijuana laws are not working," Leavitt said.
Lowest priority initiatives have proven extremely successful since first pioneered in Seattle in 2003. Cities that have passed such initiatives now include Oakland, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa Monica, California; as well as Columbia, Missouri; Eureka Springs, Arkansas; and Missoula, Montana.
But Farmington, Maine, Police Chief Richard Caton didn't think much of the idea. Who knows what kind of people might be attracted to town, he warned the AP. Also, the chief said, police would be caught between local and state and federal law. "A better way, if this is the sentiment of the people, is to change the state and federal laws," he said.
The Maine lowest priority ordinances would prohibit communities from accepting federal funds that would be used to enforce the marijuana laws and would require police to submit reports on the number and type of marijuana arrests to each municipality that adopts the ordinance, he said. Municipal officials would be required to notify state and federal officials they want to see marijuana taxed and regulated, not prohibited.
Lt. Hart Daley of the Oxford County Sheriff's Department didn't like the sound of that. "We still consider drug offenses on the top of the list of our priorities," Daley said.
Attitudes like Daley's are why local initiatives are only the beginning.