New Portland METRO ads extol virtues of marijuana over booze

Portland’s METRO is going green.

They’re not going to start burning vegetable oil or anything like that, but there will be a lot more marijuana on the buses and bus shelters than ever before: The national group pushing for legalization of marijuana in Maine — first in Portland, then statewide — have launched a series of ads on METRO buses and bus shelters in Portland. The ads will appear on four buses and two bus shelters.

Voters in Portland will decide on Nov. 5 whether to remove the penalties for adult possession of cannabis in that city. The proposal is supported by the ACLU of Maine and Portland City Councilor David Marshall, among others. It is opposed by various law enforcement groups. 

The ads continue what has become the main campaign theme by the group, Marijuana Policy Project, which boils down to an argument that marijuana is safer than alcohol.

The argument is omnipresent in the MPP’s rhetoric. This summer, volunteers handed out pamphlets comparing pot and booze — and extolling the virtue of legalization — at big state shindigs such as the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, and the group is boosting a website called marijuanaissafer.org.

Each ad features a different adult explaining why he or she prefers marijuana over alcohol and asking why they should be punished for smoking weed.

“I prefer marijuana over alcohol because it doesn’t make me rowdy or reckless. Why should I be punished?” says the text on one ad, juxtaposed against a smiling man (who doesn’t look to be too high).  

It’s unclear how the ads will go over in a city as famously boozy as Portland, but David Boyer, political director for MPP in Maine, said the ads are meant to spark conversation.

“Portlanders will see this when they’re out and about. It will start conversations between people, kids and their parents, groups of friends, and get people talking about the marijuana issue,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

Earlier this year, 35 state lawmakers co-sponsored a bill by Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, to legalize and tax recreational use of marijuana. That bill was soundly defeated in committee, but Russell’s last-ditch attempt in June to put the question to a statewide referendum failed in the House by just four votes.

An August poll of potential Maine voters indicated that 48 percent think marijuana should be legal, while 39 percent say it should continue to be criminalized and 14 percent are unsure. Legalization has majority support from Maine Democrats and unenrolled voters, polling at 58 percent and 57 percent, respectively, according to the poll results. Among Republicans, 63 percent said they opposed legalization.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House.