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Maine Law Would Decriminalize All Drugs

A new proposal would help end the War on Drugs by eliminating jail time for possession of all illicit substances.

Photo by Isaac Quesada

Lawmakers in Maine are doing their part to help end the drug war. A new bill introduced by legislators would decriminalize possession of all drugs. The measure would replace the threat of jail time with a $100 civil fine for those caught with illicit substances.

The bill also essentially decriminalizes naloxone – the anti-overdose drug better known as Narcan. The proposal states that anyone who needs naloxone administered, or seeks it out and uses it on someone else, cannot be arrested or prosecuted. The measure’s sponsors, including Rep. Anne Perry (D), believe the provision could save lives by helping to prevent overdose deaths.

The decriminalization initiative will head to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee first. It currently does not detail the possession limits covered by decrim. But advocates anticipate more specific guidelines being added to the measure as it is amended during the legislative process. 

As is the case with a similar decriminalization bill recently introduced in Rhode Island, the Maine measure offers no protections for the manufacture or distribution of narcotics. So making or selling drugs would still be a criminal offense. Additionally, even under decriminalization, illicit substances can be seized by law enforcement. But more importantly, both proposals could positively impact lives by removing criminal penalties for possession.

States around the country are beginning to turn to local decrim efforts to curb the war on drugs – particularly after voters in Oregon decriminalized all drugs through a ballot measure last November. Elected officials and citizens alike are increasingly viewing illicit drug use as a public health issue, which is often made worse though criminal penalties.