The leader of the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative, Jonathan Leavitt, is an experienced grassroots organizer accustomed to advocating for change. Today, his sight is not just set on altering marijuana policing in Western Maine, but sparking a statewide push that would lead to pot’s eventual decriminalization.

“Every pebble you throw into the water will get us closer to where we need to be,” he said. “A lot of it is starting a dialogue and letting people face their fears and begin challenging the dogma coming from the government for years.”

Leavitt grew up in Lawrence, Mass., but has ties to Maine from spending summers in his family’s home in Sumner. His father directed the Museum of American Textile History Museum in Lowell and the National Heritage Museum in Lexington. His mother was a sergeant in the National Guard. Both were loyal Democrats.

He started by organizing nascent campaigns in Massachusetts, first as an undergraduate studying social thought and movements at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst with protests against militarization and weapons research on college campuses.

Leavitt never graduated, saying his protest activities led to animosity with university administration.

“Understanding was a privilege,” he said, explaining he was drawn to activism because of his awareness and sense of responsibility to change conditions he viewed as unjust.

After working for political prisoners in Northern Ireland, Leavitt said he returned to Massachusetts to start a multi-issue organization called the “Lawrence Grassroots Initiative” that helped shut down two nearby waste incinerators.

He helped spur the Massachusetts Green Party, and eventually became a publicly funded Green candidate in an unsuccessful bid for the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2002.

Following this, Leavitt founded Massachusetts Global Action, which he said advocated to end militarization of the world and the control of economics by the elite. The group also protested the issue of water privatization and the tapping of underground water aquifers for commercial bottled water.

The MMPI is his first campaign on marijuana prohibition. “Drug policy reform is new for me,” he said.

In his personal life, Leavitt said he plays in two bands: the Reagan Babies (which he calls a political performance art band) and the Stoned Mountain Boys. As for his own marijuana use, he simply replies: “I’m a musician.”

“If you removed herbal stimulants from the lives of musicians and artists and dancers and poets, you would remove a good cross-section of beautiful American culture,” Leavitt said. “If you surveyed 100 people in the arts, a good majority have a willingness to alter consciousness and see what else is out there.”



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