PORTLAND — The war on drugs has failed and marijuana prosecution is costly to taxpayers and offenders.
That is the premise of a drive to legalize possession and use of marijuana that kicked off June 4 in Monument Square.
In a noontime press conference, David Boyer, director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, was joined by social worker Gwen Tuttle, Falmouth resident Erin Mancini and city resident Shannon McCartney in support of a petition seeking to legalize the sale of marijuana to people 21 or older in state-licensed stores.
“It makes no sense to continue the failed marijuana prohibition,” Boyer said, adding the Portland campaign kickoff made sense because city voters legalized possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in November 2013.
South Portland voters approved legalization of up to an ounce of marijuana in November 2014. Both ordinances apply to people 21 and older, as would the statewide measure Boyer said will generate at least $10 million in annual sales tax revenue.
Supporters would like to have the petition on the November 2016 state ballot. More than 61,000 certified signatures of registered Maine voters will be required to move the petition forward.
Regulation will also help keep marijuana out of the hands of younger people, Boyer said.
“Do we want it sold by drug dealers who do not check IDs?” he asked.
Tuttle said the estimated annual incarceration cost of $40,000 and the disproportionate prosecution of offenders in lower income levels are reasons she supports legalization.
McCartney said she remains burdened by a 2007 misdemeanor conviction for possession and sale of drug paraphernalia, which has blocked her eligibility for student loans and prevented her from passing employment background screenings.
“It still follows me,” she said. “I am stuck in perpetual poverty and unable to further my American Dream.”
Campaign volunteer Shannon McCartney, left, gets a signature June 4 from Portland resident Devin Sewall on a petition to legalize marijuana in Maine.