Portland won’t honor marijuana referendum

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- A new law legalizing marijuana for recreational use went into effect Friday in Maine’s largest city, providing a symbolic victory that marijuana advocates intend to use as a springboard to a statewide law.

The city ordinance makes it legal for adults to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, but police officers will continue to enforce state law that makes possession of up to 2.5 ounces a civil violation.

Mayor Michael Brennan said there were only 54 marijuana citations in the past year, reflecting the low priority that police officers place on the offenses. He expects the numbers will drop further.

"The officers are going to continue to use their discretion," said Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, who pointed out that there were 119 marijuana citations over the past two years out of 168,777 calls.

Marijuana advocates want the police department to follow the lead of Jackson, Mich., where they say police are taking a hands-off approach following passage of a similar ordinance.

"We hope that city officials respect the will of the voters. If not, we’ll try to make sure they do," said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

City voters passed the referendum 67-33 percent, making Portland the first East Coast city to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The city ordinance makes it legal for people 21 and older to possess marijuana, but not to purchase or to sell it. It remains illegal to use pot in public.

State Rep. Diane Russell, a supporter of legalizing marijuana, said she’s disappointed that the Maine Legislature won’t be considering a similar statewide proposal in January.

But she said it’s inevitable that others will follow Portland’s lead. Already, possession of marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington state.

Mainers may have had personal info breached

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- More than 1,300 Mainers are being notified that their personal information may have been released in a security lapse in an unemployment benefit payment system.

Maine’s Department of Labor said Friday that recently JPMorgan Chase & Co. notified the state about a possible data breach in September. JPMorgan manages the debit card system for unemployment benefits.

Information that may have been compromised includes card number, date of birth, user ID, password and email address. The state says PIN numbers weren’t released.

Maine’s unemployment system data wasn’t breached and other debit programs run by the state weren’t affected.

JPMorgan is expected to notify those who were affected on Monday by email. It’ll offer free credit monitoring for one year but says it hasn’t found evidence that anyone’s information was improperly used.

Panel votes to back casino in New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. -- A special gambling panel charged with developing regulations for a future casino voted Friday to recommend that New Hampshire legalize one casino with up to 5,000 video slots and 150 table games.

The New Hampshire Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority voted 8-1 to approve draft legislation that authorizes a new commission to begin licensing a casino. The Legislature will consider the bill next year.

Attorney General Joseph Foster praised the panel’s work to include strong regulations for the casino, but voted against the proposal. Foster said his office will fight the bill when lawmakers consider it next year. He said he recognizes that charities benefit now from games of chance in New Hampshire, but legalizing a commercial casino would foster more social costs.

"We’re going from little leagues to big leagues in terms of the dollar cost of problem gamblers," Foster said.

The panel was created after the House killed a casino bill that passed the Senate with strong backing from Gov. Maggie Hassan. The bill rejected in May would have allowed the construction of one casino with 5,000 slot machines and 150 table games.