South Portland pot debate | News

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South Portland pot debate
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SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The South Portland Police Chief did something he's never done before Wednesday night: stepped on stage and debated a political issue.

Chief Edward Googins argued that marijuana legalization would be harmful to the South Portland community, and asked voters to reject a pot referendum question this November.

Googins debated David Boyer, the Maine Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, at a debate organized by the South Portland School Department.

Boyer led the successful campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Portland, and has brought the campaign to South Portland and Lewiston.

"The facts are on our side," said Boyer, who has continued to frame the debate as an alcohol vs. marijuana conversation.

Boyer said legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and older will give them a safer, and legal, alternative to alcohol. He said it will also allow police to use their time and resources going after more serious crimes, therefore, making communities safer.

"Marijuana is not safe," said Chief Googins, who pointed to statistics out of Colorado.

Googins said after marijuana was made legal there, pot related driving fatalities and hospital visits went up.

Boyer pointed to other examples out of Colorado, saying crime has gone down, while tourism and college applications have gone up.

While the referendum applies to adults, the debate shifted to the impact it could have on children.

"Use of marijuana by adults sends a bad message to our youth. It increases access to the drug, intentionally or not," said Googins.

South Portland High School students are split on the issue.

Freshman Sarah Axelrod said her classmates are already using marijuana. "I don't think it should be legalized because then a lot of students will start using it," she said.

Student Owen Sullivan said it might curb alcohol use among teens. "It's not as harmful as other stuff, and it could replace alcohol," he said.


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