Marijuana legalization and the Portland ballot: All your research material in one spot

Nov. 5 is Election Day, dear voters, and I know it’s sometimes difficult — what with work and child care and exercise and shopping and errands and recreation — to stay informed about the people and issues you’ll see on the ballot.

Fear not. Let this blog post be your guide. Through this hub, you can connect to almost too much information about the Portland municipal ballot on Tuesday. As you’ll see throughout, I’ve linked to stories and opinions from an array of newspapers covering Portland — not just my own — in an effort to provide the best one-stop shop for Election Day information.

For starters, here’s a copy of the ballot the majority of Portland voters will see on Election Day (for those in Districts 1, 2, 4 and 5 — there are District- and area-specific votes on the District 3 and island ballots):

Portland, Maine, sample ballot for Election Day, 2013

The question on the local ballot with the most statewide interest is likely Question 1, asking about whether to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in the city. Here’s how it will look on the ballot itself:

Listen: If you’re somebody who digests information best through listening, here’s an episode of our Ink & Pine podcast in which we interviewed David Boyer of the Marijuana Policy Project.

The latest: This morning, state Reps. Diane Russell, Peter Stuckey and Matthew Moonen, all Portland Democrats, were scheduled to join independent colleague Ben Chipman and East End Cupcakes owner Alysia Zoidkis to announce the lawmakers’ endorsement of the legalization measure.

(BDN file photo by John Clarke Russ)

Also, Randy Billings of the Portland Press Herald is reporting that the city of Portland is taking down several campaign signs against legalization because of what the clerk’s office is calling insufficient disclosure about who paid to put them up.

(Excerpt) The small white signs began to sprout up earlier this week on the Eastern Promenade and along Washington Avenue. The signs read “Future = PORTLAND. Vote NO on Question 1. No to POTland.” It was the first public display of any opposition to the referendum. (full story here)

Who supports the legalization effort?

In addition to the legislators listed above and, of course, the national Marijuana Policy Project, the Maine NAACP, the Portland Green Independent Committee, the ACLU of Maine, the Libertarian Party of Maine and the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine. City Councilor David Marshall has also been a vocal proponent, as has local author and columnist Crash Barry.

Who opposes the legalization effort?

Arguments against legalization have come from the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, the Maine Public Health Association, the Maine Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services and, by extension, the Maine Environmental Substance Abuse Prevention Center’s 21 Reasons program. The Forecaster newspaper has editorialized against the referendum (see below), while attorney David Canarie, an adjunct faculty member of the University of Southern Maine School of Business, has written commentaries against the measure as well. While not in outright opposition, my editors here at the BDN have urged caution on the issue in an editorial posted today.

Some opinions on the matter…

… in favor of “yes” votes:

Letter in the Portland Daily Sun, Sept. 24:

(Excerpt) Marijuana is objectively safer than alcohol, and we should treat adults who responsibly use this substance the same way we treat those who responsibly choose to have a drink. Right now, we are wasting precious resources punishing adults for doing nothing more than possessing marijuana. (full letter here)

Letter in the Portland Daily Sun, Sept. 24:

(Excerpt) If passed, this ordinance would allow adults to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Numerous polls show a clear majority of Americans support regulating marijuana similar to alcohol and recent marijuana reform efforts in Washington and Colorado show this policy can be implemented safely and effectively. (full letter here)

Letter in The Forecaster, Oct. 21:

(Excerpt) As I like to say, anything is a drug if you treat it like a drug. We all know marijuana is an excellent relaxant and stimulant, such as tea. I know alcohol abuse will go down and keep Portland even safer. (full letter here)

… in favor of “no” votes:

Commentary in the Bangor Daily News, May 20:

(Excerpt) Legalizing marijuana will result in a significant increase in marijuana consumption for several reasons. First, marijuana will become much less expensive when it becomes a readily available and legal consumer product. Moreover, the stigma of using an illegal drug and the risk of going to court will be eliminated, thereby removing the “social cost” of use. (full commentary here)

Editorial from The Forecaster, Oct. 28:

(Excerpt) Proponents of legalization like to argue that marijuana should be analogous to alcohol. But is it really? To prevent fraud and criminal use, the sale of alcohol is regulated, restricted and taxed. Not so with the proposal to legalize pot, which deals only with personal possession and fails to provide safeguards against sales and supply abuses. (full editorial here)

Letter in the Portland Press Herald, Nov. 1:

(Excerpt) Proponents say marijuana is less addictive than alcohol and causes less damage to the brain than alcohol and that related health care costs are less. That tells me it causes some brain damage and addiction, and creates some health-related costs. We’re talking degrees of harm. How much damage to the brain is acceptable to you, and who ends up paying for that? Do you want to pay for more addiction services and health-related costs? The routes of all scenarios lead directly or indirectly to your wallets. (full letter here)

From the archives, a list of stories about the campaign and how we got to this point:

Elsewhere on the ballot (Portland council and school board races take shape)

A rundown of all of the Portland City Council races in one spot can be found here, published by our media partners at The Forecaster.

City Council At-large (3-year term): Democrat Jon Hinck, 59 vs. Democrat Wellington Lyons, 31

Brief bios:

Hinck (The Forecaster)

Hinck, a lawyer, is a former three-term state representative who fell short in a bid for the Democratic party nomination for U.S. Senate last year. He co-founded Greenpeace USA and worked for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. He lives on Pine Street.

Lyons (The Forecaster)

Lyons is also a lawyer who co-founded Rogue Industries, a startup maker of accessories for smartphones and other consumer gadgets. Lyons volunteered for the Obama campaign in 2008 and has been active with Equality Maine and the Maine League of Young Voters. He ran a spirited race against at-large incumbent councilor — and former mayor –Nicholas Mavodones last year and lost. He lives on Danforth Street.

Hinck and Lyons are running to replace John Anton, who opted not to seek re-election.

Hitting the links:


City Council At-large (4-year term): Incumbent Democrat Jill Duson, 59 vs. Green Independent Christopher Shorr, 30 vs. Republican-leaning Gregory Smaha, 30

Brief bios:

Duson (The Forecaster)

Duson is a compliance manager for the Maine Human Rights Commission who has served on the council for 12 years, and currently serves as vice chairwoman of its legislative committee. She lives on Pennell Avenue.

Shorr (The Forecaster)

Shorr is a lobsterman from Harvard Street who is critical of Duson’s vote to sell 9,500 square feet of Congress Square Park to private developers. According to The Forecaster (see above), Shorr owns up to a criminal record that includes convictions for disorderly conduct and receiving stolen property, and says he’s learned from his mistakes.

Smaha (The Forecaster)

Smaha, of Phipps Road, is also critical of the Congress Square vote, and bills himself as the fiscally conservative candidate. He works as an expense controller for a Scarborough manufacturer.

Hitting the links:


City Council District 3: Incumbent Democrat Ed Suslovic, 53 vs. unenrolled Gregory Blouin, 30

Brief bios:

Suslovic (The Forecaster)

Suslovic, a former state representative and at-large councilor, chairs the council’s Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee. He lives on Kenwood Street.

Blouin (The Forecaster)

Blouin, of outer Congress Street, is a political newcomer who told The Forecaster he was inspired to run by his father, state Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford.

Hitting the links:


6 candidates are running to fill 2 seats on the Portland Board of Public Education

Incumbents Kate Snyder and Jamey Caron each decided not to run for re-election. Here’s what they had to say about those decisions and the future of the school department in a story by The Forecaster. (District 3 incumbent Laurie Davis is running unopposed for re-election as well.)

The candidates to replace them are:

  • Pious Ali, 44, a Ghana native and father of two who has lived in Portland for more than a decade and founded the Maine Interfaith Youth Alliance. He lives on Pearl Street.
  • Deborah Brewer, 44, a nurse and mother of three who has been active in Parent Teacher Organizations. She lives on Shepherd Lane.
  • Ralph Carmona, 62, a Los Angeles native and active member of the local Democratic party. He was one of 15 candidates to run for mayor in 2011. He lives on North Street.
  • Gene Landry, 55, a father of four and former television news reporter who grew up the son of a U.S. Navy officer. He lives on Bay View Drive.
  • Frederic Miller, 71, who ran as a Republican for the House District 117 seat last year, losing to Democrat Richard Farnsworth. He lives on Mayer Road.
  • Anna Trevorrow, 31, of Myrtle Street, is a former banker who has worked as chairwoman for the Maine Green Independent Party. In the past, she has unsuccessfully run for seats on the school board and in the state House of Representatives.

Hitting the links:


Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.