Maine witnessed the advancement of liberty when voters said “yes” to ballot Question 1, paving the way for legal recreational use of marijuana. Adults 21 and over can now posses (though it’s still illegal to sell marijuana at this time) two and a half ounces of marijuana to be used in nonpublic spaces or private residences.
With only 3,995 making the difference, Maine residents in support of legalizing cannabis use won, with a margin of 50.3%. Even after a recount, that vote was confirmed. Adults over 21 can purchase marijuana from social clubs or retail dispensaries. Full retail sales have been delayed until February 2018, but this victory will send a powerful message to the rest of the country.
Our criminal justice system has been overburdened, due to the heavy demands of policing drug infractions. Cops are required to arrest and process citizens over virtually insignificant counts of possession. Young men and women are thrown into the system for a harmless act. This takes time away from law enforcement in pursuing truly life-threatening criminal activity.
As police and law enforcement are busy busting young adults with small amounts of marijuana, violent criminals flood our streets. Gangs, organized crime, and the rising toll of domestic abuse goes unanswered, thanks to outdated laws that punish everyday citizens. Can any American with a conscience really ignore these realities?
With the victory of Question 1, Maine police will be free to protect citizens from real threats. Valuable resources and man hours that were once monopolized by prosecuting marijuana users can now be put to better use.
Instead of filling our jails with harmless people–who were in the possession of marijuana–our cops can use our tax dollars to better keep our cities safe.
In addition to this, legalizing marijuana will have significant financial benefits for Maine’s economy and communities.
The state is entering a rapidly growing industry expected to reach $21 billion in sales by 2021. Last year, North American consumers spent $6.9 billion on legal cannabis products, up 34 percent from 2015, according to a new report from Arcview Market Research. (Portland Press Herald)
The potential for economic growth is evident. A 10% sales tax added to marijuana purchases will contribute to a general fund–meaning every Maine resident will benefit.
But beyond all this is the fact that this win will help save lives. Countless young people are criminalized due to our country’s strict drug laws. They are tossed into a cold, heartless system that transforms them into villains, simply because they used a little bit of pot.
Once they get a criminal record, future opportunities for education or work become virtually nonexistent. But thanks to Question 1’s victory, these people no longer have to fear unjust arrests and prosecution.
The fight is not over, though. Most of the United States has strict laws and penalties for minor marijuana infractions. Only a few have legalized recreational use.
Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, Hawaii, and Michigan have all legalized medical marijuana. California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Washington D.C., Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada — and now Maine — have all legalized medical and recreational marijuana. (CNN)
There is still a strong stigma against recreational drug use; just looking at how close this victory was tells you that much. In order to secure greater liberty for all Americans, we must continue to spread our message and educate our neighbors.