MAINE: Portland voters have passed a city law legalizing marijuana possession.
Supporters of the referendum question are claiming victory after opening a huge lead in early results.
“Yes” votes lead “No” votes 67 percent to 32 percent, according to unofficial tallies with all of the city’s 12 precincts reporting.
The Yes on 1 campaign leads 9,921 to 4,823. There are more than 52,000 registered voters in Portland.
With the passage, Portland become the first city on the East Coast to legalize marijuana.
Residents voted on an ordinance that would – under city law – legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by adults age 21 or older. It does not set up a legal way to obtain the drug.
The referendum is seen by some as another step toward legalization across the country, and supporters say they will build on support in Portland with a statewide legalization effort in the next two years. The immediate and practical effects of a “Yes” vote are hazy, however.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal laws and only allowed for medical uses under state law. Portland’s police chief has said that, regardless of Tuesday’s vote, officers will continue to enforce state law, which says possessing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana can lead to a civil summons and fines of $350 to $1,000, while furnishing, selling or packaging the drug for sale can lead to criminal charges.