Maine Making Bid to Be Third State to Legalize Marijuana

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By Michael Dougherty

 

On November 6, 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first and second states to legalize the sale and possession of cannabis (marijuana) for recreational use since the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Maine may be the third.

A bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, has obtained 35 co-sponsors and has been submitted to the legislative committee for approval.

“Maine can and should take a more sensible approach to marijuana policy, and we are glad to see so many legislators agree,” David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said a couple weeks ago in a prepared statement.

The proposed bill would make it legal for individuals to grow up to six plants if they are housed in a secure space as well as exchange the drug from one adult to another as long as no money changed hands and the adults are 21 years old. The bill also mentions that an individual should not be denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon because he or she uses marijuana.

“I believe that ending marijuana prohibition is a true part of limited government,” Republican Rep. Aaron Libby of Waterboro, a co-sponsor, said during a February media event. “As a fiscal conservative, I see great potential in the economic growth of removing these prohibitions.”

The bill is likely to draw opposition from many public health and law enforcement groups. Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, said, in response to the proposed bill, that his group remains adamantly against the legalization of marijuana at any level.

Momentum for legalizing marijuana in Maine appears to be picking up steam, particularly in the Portland area. Russell as well as six members of the city’s legislative delegation; Chipman, Rep. Richard Farnsworth, Rep. Eric Jorgensen, Rep. Matt Moonen, Rep. Peter Stuckey and Rep. Denise Harlow are all co-sponsoring the bill.

If the Legislature approves the bill, it would then go to a statewide referendum. Washington and Colorado approved measures last year that legalized marijuana for recreational use. Bills to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol would then have to be considered. These types of bills are expected to be debated this year in Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

The debate over the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana for recreational use have been ongoing for years with proponents from each side arguing their case vehemently. Legalized marijuana has always been a great source of debate, but the latest trend of states who have legalized the plant as well as the number of senate representatives in other states who are on board with the idea, points to a change in the overall thinking of the government on the issue. 

Alcohol prohibition came to an end after it became obvious that the people who benefitted most from it were the criminals who sold the product, untaxed, on the black market. Marijuana prohibition seems to now be on a similar track in Maine and the rest of the United States. It’s only a matter of time.