Lawmakers consider bill to decriminalize possession of drugs

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 4:19 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Lawmakers are considering a radical new bill that looks to decriminalize possession of scheduled drugs in Maine.

Those found possessing scheduled drugs under this law would be given the option to pay a fine or receive a health assessment from the state.

“We are locking people up and forcing them to live the rest of their lives with a criminal record. Further marginalizing them and making it incredibly difficult for them to rebuild their lives,” said State Representative Rachel Talbot-Ross.

Supporters of the bill say the way the state operates now simply doesn’t work.

“We’ve been wasting resources, arresting and incarcerating people without investing in the options that would make them whole and healthy in their communities,” said Meagan Sway Policy Director of ACLU of Maine.

“It is time for Maine to use the most affective approach for tackling our overdose crisis. This is what LD 967 does, this is how we save lives,” said State Representative Genevieve McDonald.

Others, especially on the law enforcement side, argue against the plan.

Some say that Maine currently doesn’t have the healthcare infrastructure to support this idea.

And that being able to handle possession of these drugs criminally is a last resort they don’t want to see taken away.

“There are circumstances in which charging is in my opinion the last option in the work of trying to keep our community members with opioid use disorder alive. Law enforcement summonses, not arrests, summonses that person for possession, get them on bail condition, we get them into treatment,” said Natasha Irving, representing the Maine Prosecutors Association.

Some members of the committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, though, say they’re simply tired of not committing to a better solution.

“Here’s this idea nope that doesn’t work, here’s this idea nope we’re not going to do that. Who brings the solution forward? Or are we just okay with losing 11 people a week,” said State Representative Charlotte Warren.

“It’s not okay that people are dying because of this. But I do think if we’re going to get an agreement it may take some level of compromise. Because of how different groups feel about this,” said Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey.

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