In Maine, Dems vote releasing balloons a harsher fine than hard drug possession

Rep. Genevieve McDonald (D – Stonington) is the sponsor of LD 1023 and also voted to support LD 967.

AUGUSTA – If Democrats in the Maine House of Representatives have their way, the release of a handful of balloons at a state fair late this summer will carry a greater fine than being picked up with a bag full of hard drugs such as fentanyl or heroin. Proposals to impose heavy fines for the release of plastic balloons and to drastically reduce the penalty for possession of drugs that were previously criminal offenses have now both been approved by Democrats in the Maine House of Representatives.

Yesterday, Maine House Democrats voted to approve LD 967 in a party line vote. The bill, if also passed by the Maine Senate, would reduce possession of illegal schedule W, X, Y or Z drugs down from being classified as a crime in Maine law, some as felonies with harsh criminal penalties, down to a civil penalty and a $100 fine.

These drugs include cocaine, heroin, meth, fentanyl and hallucinogens.

In May, the same Maine House Democrats also voted along party lines to impose fines for releasing balloons into the air, with the fine for release of a single balloon or less than 10 balloons being a minimum of $100 and up to $500.

The two votes are but a few of many in the Maine House that Republicans have called out for what they say is extremism from Democrat majority lawmakers.

Assistant House Republican Leader Rep. Joel Stetkis put the situation in simple terms in a Facebook post, “77 Maine House Democrats passed a maximum penalty for possession of illegal schedule drugs to $100 but release a balloon $500.”

In last year’s legislative session, which was cut short due to COVID-19, Democrats had proposed bills similar to both of those discussed in the articles, but they were unable to pass them due to the early closure of the legislature. The bills discussed here appear to be the newest iterations of those proposals.

It is unclear if Maine Senate Democrats will be as eager as House Democrats to impose fines on Mainers who release balloons while pulling back on penalties for possession of destructive and deadly drugs such as fentanyl and heroin.

During the COVID-19 lockdown imposed by Governor Janet Mills, Maine saw record levels of overdoses, which many say was a problem compounded by the lockdown denying substance abuse treatment professionals the chance to see patients.

View the House Roll Call Vote on the bill to reduce penalties for possession of heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and other drugs by clicking here. (LD 967)

View the House Roll Call Vote on the bill to impose fines for the release of balloons by clicking here. (LD 1023)

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