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Portland pot legalization advocates expect police to ‘stop punishing adult marijuana users’

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Portland pot legalization advocates expect police to ‘stop punishing adult marijuana users’

PORTLAND — Two days after Portland police said they would “use their discretion” to enforce state law regarding possession of marijuana, the group that spearheaded passage of a new city ordinance legalizing recreational use said they expect police to yield to the will of the people.

On Election Day, more than 67 percent of Portland voters approved of a new city ordinance to legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in the city. The law will become effective on Dec. 6, 30 days after the vote.

Recreational use of the drug remains illegal under federal and state laws, which Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said “pre-empt local ordinances.”

In a statement Friday, Tom MacMillan, chairman of the Portland Green Independent Committee, which campaigned for the ordinance, said, “The vote on Tuesday was a clear indication that Portland residents want our police force to stop punishing adult marijuana users. The police have the discretion to do so while still enforcing city, state and federal rules for public use, use under 21 and possession over 2.5 ounces. Portland officials must be accountable to the will of the people.”

“It is very encouraging that marijuana possession citations have decreased by 26 percent over a period of a year,” City Councilor David Marshall said in the release. “The voters expect the public and the police to comply with the ordinance when it goes into effect. The election results are a mandate that supports the discretion police are using in regards to adult marijuana possession.”

According to a fact sheet posted last Friday on the city’s website, the new ordinance will not affect the Police Department’s enforcement of state law.

“Officers will continue to use their discretion and judgment in a manner that will ensure that their enforcement authority is exercised in a fair and judicious manner,” the document said.

MacMillan said leaders of the Green Independent Committee would meet soon with local officials to discuss enforcement and education.