Details Announced On Plan To Legalize Marijuana In Maine

Rob Poindexter

Updated 2 years ago

Details were released Thursday on a proposal that would legalize marijuana in Maine for recreational use.Two states, Colorado and Washington, have already taken that step and if Representative Diane Russell, a Portland Democrat, has her way, Maine would be the third.Russell’s plan would allow marijuana to be grown, sold, taxed, and regulated like alcohol. Under her proposal, consumers must be at least 21 years old, they would be allowed to possess 2.5 ounces and could cultivate up to six plants. Public smoking of marijuana would be prohibited Russell says that by taking marijuana off the black market, it would be more difficult for kids to get their hands on it. “When was the last time you heard of a drug dealer carding a kid? It doesn’t happen,” she said at a press briefing on Thursday.Russell estimates marijuana could bring in roughly $13 million annually in state revenue, but she calls that a conservative estimate. “This is a market that’s very hard to quantify. as you can imagine, there’s not a whole lot of data on how big the market happens to be,” Russell said.Her proposal would impose a $50 excise tax per ounce of marijuana sold. That revenue brought in from marijuana would be split up like this:75% – To the state’s general fund10% – Go toward substance abuse programs.10% – Toward implementing the marijuana program5% – Toward research into the effects of marijuanaWindham Republican Senator Gary Plummer, who serves on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which will hear the bill, questions the revenue forecasts. “I’m very skeptical,” Plummer said Thursday. “I believe they were proposing $13 million in revenue. I’m anxious to see where that’s gonna come from.”Members of Maine’s law enforcement community are also opposed to the idea of legalizing marijuana. “I wouldn’t support it,” said Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce. “Quite frankly I’ve heard the war on drugs, it’s beyond us, we might as well give in to it. I’m not sure we’re ready to give in to it.”Some critics also calling this bill premature. Since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, they argue Maine lawmakers should wait for Washington to act first. That’s an idea Russell dismisses, saying Mainers shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for the federal government to act. “Congress is having all it can do to rename bridges right now. Do you really expect that they’re in the position to to actually pass laws, change laws or make public policy?”The bill has already garnered some support from Republicans. Waterboro Republican Aaron Libby, who calls himself a “fiscal conservative” took part in Thursday’s press briefing and announced his support for the measure. The bill still faces an uphill climb. It must pass through committee, votes in the House and Senate, be signed by the governor and then put out to Mainers for a vote.


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