Last Thursday, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree pledged her support for H.R. 499, “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013.” Pingree, who represents Maine’s 1st District including the town of Brunswick, is currently one of the bill’s thirteen co-sponsors. 

The bill, which would regulate marijuana in the same way as tobacco and liquor, follows past efforts from Pingree. In a previous session of Congress, Pingree cosponsored a bill along with Congressmen Ron Paul (Republican of Texas) and Barney Frank (Democrat of Massachusetts) that would have decriminalized marijuana. Willy Ritch ’87, spokesman for Pingree’s Portland office, explained that Pingree sees the bill as a “reasonable approach to marijuana regulation.”

News of Pingree’s endorsement came on the same day that a press conference by the Portland Green Party, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the ACLU announced a petition to legalize small amounts of marijuana in Portland. The petition, if passed, would enact a city ordinance permitting the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Although 1,500 signatures are required, the petition committee hopes to receive over 3,000. Expectations for success are high, said David Boyer, a political director for the MPP, as Portlanders “overwhelmingly voted for medical marijuana in 2009” and are expected to vote similarly this year.

The Maine Sheriffs’ Association, conversely,  is not in favor of easing marijuana restrictions. Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty, president of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association voiced his disapproval of the bill in an interview on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. Liberty stated that the state will “send a wrong message if we legalize marijuana,” expressing concern “that marijuana is a gateway drug” for those with substance abuse issues. Such individuals “start using marijuana early, and had it not been for that, they wouldn’t be on the path that they are,” said Liberty.

Liberty also addressed the claim that the law enforcement system is burdened with addressing illegal marijuana. “There’s not a whole lot of resources spent in the correctional facilities or in law enforcement” dealing with marijuana use,  he said.