MAINE: Marijuana advocates want to finally take their legalization drive — thus far the province of western states — to the Northeast, and they say the first state to do it here might be Maine.
The Pine Tree State has a long history with cannabis. Maine voters approved medical marijuana legalization 15 years ago, becoming the first state to do so in New England. Now, national marijuana advocates say, the state represents a chance for pro-marijuana forces to get a toe-hold in the northeastern states they have long coveted.
Supporters of marijuana legalization say part of their focus on Maine is schematic — the ease of Maine’s citizen-led public ballot initiative process makes it a more viable target than states where laws can only be changed through complicated state legislative battles. Pro-legalization advocates also cite a pair of recent victories in municipal legalization drives — Portland, the state’s largest city, in 2013 and South Portland, its fourth largest, this month.
Maine also decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana nearly four decades ago, and the state already has a sizeable network of eight dispensaries and more than 1,500 legal growers. The favorable climate for legalization has national and local pro-marijuana groups gearing up for a potential statewide legalization ballot initiative in 2016.