Voters To Weigh in On Push for Pot Law Reform

  Voters To Weigh in On Push for Pot Law Reform

Posted by CN Staff on February 25, 2007 at 07:40:33 PT
By Rebecca Goldfine, Staff Writer 
Source: Lewiston Sun Journal 

Maine -- Voters in some of Maine’s more rural communities will soon get a chance to add their voices to an ongoing and growing national debate over whether America should reform its law enforcement policies toward marijuana crimes.Pushed by a petition circulated by the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative, West Paris voters, on Saturday, will decide whether to make marijuana the lowest police priority in town.
In June, Sumner voters will also take up the proposed ordinance change being pushed by Sumner resident and Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative Executive Director Jonathan Leavitt. Selectmen in other towns, including Paris and Farmington, have blocked the proposed ordinance from going to a vote, claiming it is not only illegal and unenforceable, but also in conflict with state and federal laws on marijuana.Leavitt’s Lewiston-based organization is linked up with the national Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates ending marijuana prohibition and is involved in many campaigns around the country similar to the one here in Maine. It is also helping to free incarcerated nonviolent offenders and trying to pass federal medical marijuana legislation, among other missions, Leavitt said.He secured $60,000 from the national group and about $25,000 more in funding from about 30 other donors to launch his effort here in 2006.He is asking for another grant from the 12-year-old Marijuana Policy Project to continue working through next year and hire another staff person.“The Marijuana Policy Project was looking for someone to build their organization in Maine,” Leavitt explained. “They were looking at where opportunities might present themselves. The dialogue here is not a harsh dialogue ... and there is a strong framework of local democracy and making sure people spend money wisely.”He also mentioned support here for local farmers, as well as a willingness to not be constrained by political ideology. And he brought up, as he frequently does in conversations, that Maine’s number one cash crop is marijuana, a rich source for potential taxes, he says.At the Marijuana Policy Project based in Washington D.C., legal analyst Anthony Wagenseil said, “We hold ourselves to a very high level of standards and we don’t just award money left and right to anyone, so you have to be the best of the best to be funded by us or receive funding by us.”At the campaign headquarters in Lewiston, a bare-bones office on Lisbon Street with a soft wall-to-wall carpet, stenciled into the wall in different colors is the message:“Politics without principal, wealth without work, commerce without morality, pleasure without conscience, education without character, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice.”Leavitt nodded toward the wall and said, “Ghandi’s seven deadly social sins.”Like Ghandi’s strategy to bring down British colonialism, Leavitt said his tactic is to change society by starting at the lowest level, on the ground, with the people in West Paris, Paris, Sumner and Farmington.But not all locals in those towns want to be part of Leavitt’s vision. So far, despite his claims he chose these towns because of the strong support he found in them, the public outcry has been resoundingly dismissive, from selectmen to local police chiefs to voters.“I am against drugs and alcohol,” said West Paris resident Bertha DeHaas. “They do terrible things to the family.” DeHaas said she lost a grandson to a drug overdose and a step-daughter drifted away from the family after becoming involved with drugs. After a Jan. 25 selectman’s meeting where it was decided town voters would get to weigh in on the issue, DeHaas and about 10 other townspeople formed an opposition group. That group meets weekly, sends out mailers and puts up posters urging voters to reject the ordinance.“We cannot let something like that pass, we do not want to be the gateway for marijuana in the state of Maine. They pick on little towns because they think we will lay over and play dead,” DeHaas said.And there is also talk in West Paris and Paris that the petition circulated to gather signatures to put the proposed ordinance on town warrants tricked signers. Mary Ann Brown of West Paris said she never would have written her name had she understood the ordinance’s full intention. Brown had asked petitioners what the ordinance meant, and they explained, “If cops find marijuana in their homes, smoking marijuana, they will charge them with a misdemeanor, which I have no problem with.” She said she never saw the four-page ordinance on the table, but after reading it later was troubled with the way the ordinance conflicts with state law, its seeming unenforceability and the paperwork demanded of the town’s volunteer committee.If the ordinance passes it would have little impact on how law enforcement handles marijuana crimes in West Paris, especially as the town doesn’t have its own police force, said First Selectman Wade Rainey. But selectmen decided to let the voters take a vote anyway as Leavitt gathered the required signatures for the vote. “It’s not any kind of statement about how the board feels about the marijuana part of this,” Rainey said.Maine Municipal Association Attorney Richard Flewelling advised nearby Paris they did not have to honor Leavitt’s petition in that town.“The ordinance’s clearly implied intent (and its proponents’ stated objective) is effectively to repeal the laws governing the manufacture, sale, possession or use of marijuana by adults,” Flewelling, wrote in a December 2006 letter advising Paris officials against adding the ordinance to the town’s upcoming warrant.“These are state laws, however, and local law enforcement officers are sworn to uphold them,” Flewelling wrote.Paris Police Chief David Verrier said it is critical he is allowed to investigate marijuana infractions, especially in the wake of a recent brutal attack on a Paris couple in their home Feb. 1 that appears to have been an attempt to steal 90 pounds of homegrown pot. Verrier also said that in his police experience, he has seen marijuana become the “gateway” to harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.Leavitt said the proposed ordinance does not prevent police from making marijuana-related arrests. An oversight committee of three volunteer townspeople would oversee and track police involvement in marijuana investigations.Another petition seeking to bolster medical marijuana laws was passed out simultaneously on Election Day with the initiative’s petition, which may have confused some voters who support marijuana for medical purposes.Leavitt claims this is an intentional distortion to cast aspersion on the group. “I have been around this game long enough to spot a ‘smokescreen’ when it comes to people voicing their opposition. And this is clearly one of them. If they can make us look like we are underhanded or manipulative, then they don’t have to argue the facts and the failed policy itself,” Leavitt wrote in an e-mailed message.And even if the law fails to catch in these four towns, Leavitt said he plans to march on for perhaps several more years, or however long it takes to establish an organization that can chip away at Maine’s marijuana laws. On the agenda is a statewide ballot proposal to legalize marijuana, putting it on par with alcohol as a regulated and taxed commodity.“Based on how these campaigns go and what kind of feedback/interest we get in other towns we will be open to new campaigns at any point,” he wrote, stressing that at the moment most of the group’s resources are being directed toward West Paris. During the next few days, he and other volunteers will be calling voters in the town of about 1,800. “This campaign will provide some insight into what we can expect from semi-rural, small towns, and help us map out how we approach our next campaigns.”Related Articles in Series & Poll:The Marijuana Advocate: Cop's Perspective: has Clouded Perception of Marijuana: Advocates Want Town To Spark Legalization: Lewiston Sun Journal (ME)Author: Rebecca Goldfine, Staff WriterPublished: Sunday, February 25, 2007Copyright: 2007 Lewiston Sun JournalContact: letters sunjournal.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives

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Comment #2 posted by The GCW on February 25, 2007 at 19:17:35 PT
Here's the POLL
POLL Do you believe enforcement of adult marijuana laws should be the lowest law enforcement priority in Maine? -Yes -No VOTE
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Comment #1 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on February 25, 2007 at 12:19:43 PT
Wow, 6 articles on the subject and an audio link!
All on the Sun Journal's website for today.
I wonder if they all made the non-virtual edition of the paper?Here's the 2 FoM didn't list, which was easy to do since I never found them all in one place, and these 2 don't mention the subject in the title -AUDIO: Johanthan Leavitt is Jonathan Leavitt? is the leader of the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative)Some interesting comments, and most seem to get it, but of course there's a few knuckleheads -"Jonathan Leavitt is your typical drug addict, college DROPOUT so the SUN JOURNAl gives him front page coverage!?"
says Sam, which rhymes with spam, as he put the exact same comment on 3 of the 6 articles (oddly, not on the "Who is Jonathan Leavitt?" article), and goes on with the old gateway/lazy/low sperm count/cancer bs.Then there's Me (not me!, lol) -
"Say what you want but Every pot smoker I know is lazy, amount to little & they stink."
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