Bills would decriminalize pot, increase penalties for cocaine

March 17th, 2011 by admin Leave a reply »

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine would have some of the nation’s most relaxed laws when it comes to marijuana possession if a Portland lawmaker’s efforts gain any traction in Augusta.

Rep. Ben Chipman, I-Portland, on Thursday introduced LD 754, which would decriminalize possession of up to five ounces of marijuana, and LD 750, which would allow people to have up to six marijuana plants without facing criminal penalties.

“It is my fundamental belief that people who use marijuana for personal use on a recreational basis are not criminals,”  Chipman told members of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee.

Chipman’s bills do not legalize marijuana. Both possession and cultivation of the drug still would be against the law, but minor offenses would be treated as civil infractions similar to traffic violations. Those in violation could be fined — but not arrested or jailed — and they would have no criminal record.

Currently in Maine, possession of less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana is a civil violation, the maximum punishment for which is a $1,000 fine. Under Chipman’s bill, the fine would be lowered to a maximum of $250 and would apply to amounts of up to 5 ounces. The bill also would remove criminal penalties currently in place for amounts between 2.5 ounces and 5 ounces.

Supporters of Chipman’s bills urged lawmakers to rethink pouring more resources into what they believe has been a failed war on drugs.

“Let public guardians get back

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