A recent report stated that an out-of-state marijuana legalization interest group will start gathering signatures in an attempt to put a marijuana legalization initiative for Lewiston on November’s ballot.

People should be careful of what petition they sign if approached on June 10. It is important for citizens to understand what would be coming to Lewiston if that were to be put on the ballot and passed.

The ordinance in Portland has not changed anything. State and federal laws supersede local law, so it is still illegal to possess and distribute marijuana in Portland. Maine already has decriminalization laws where possession of up to 2.5 ounces is only a civil offense. The situation would be no different in Lewiston.

What would be changing is the message being sent to our youth.

Youth are already subject to confusing and mixed messages around marijuana. We are seeing the results of that in this county. According to 2013 data from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, more than 55 percent of Androscoggin County high school youth believe there is no risk from regular marijuana use. Meanwhile, since 2011, there has been a 54 percent increase in the number of middle school youth in Androscoggin County using marijuana.

We have a significant issue with youth marijuana use that we need to address together as a community. A legalization ordinance would only serve to further normalize marijuana use for youth. Now is not the time to bring policies to Lewiston that would worsen this growing and urgent public health problem.

Jim Handy, Lewiston


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