Pubdate: Thu, 28 Mar 2013
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2013 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Robert Long


Robert Long, Bangor Daily News Maine | Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at
4:20 pm AUGUSTA - A bill to legalize recreational use of marijuana and
regulate it like alcohol in Maine has garnered 35 co-sponsors and now
heads to a legislative committee hearing.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, would make
major changes in Maine's drug law, ranging from making possession of
up to 2.5 ounces of pot legal to imposing a tax of $50 per ounce. It
was referred to the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety
Committee on Wednesday.

Rep. Michel Lajoie and Rep. Nathan Libby, both of Lewiston, and Auburn
Rep. Brian Bolduc are among the co-sponsors of the bill. Other members
of the delegation co-sponsoring the bill include Rep. Lance Harvell of
Farmington, Rep. Terry Hayes odf Buckfield and Rep. Stephen Wood of

Russell and Republican Rep. Aaron Libby of Waterboro, a co-sponsor,
publicized the measure last month during a media event at the State
House. Since then, the bill, LD 1229, "An Act to Regulate and Tax
Marijuana," attracted 34 other co-sponsors. Among them is Sen. Stan
Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, Senate chairman of the Criminal Justice and
Public Safety Committee, which will determine the fate of the bill
after a public hearing and work sessions. Other co-sponsors include
tribal representatives of the Penobscot Nation and Houlton Band of
Maliseets, independent Rep. Ben Chipman of Portland, 28 Democrats and
three Republicans.

"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
Wednesday in a prepared statement.

Russell's bill would make it legal for individuals to grow as many as
six plants if they are cultivated in a locked space. She also supports
allowing the transfer of the drug from one adult to another without
compensation, as long as they are at least 21 years old. The bill
would keep in place the legal prohibition against smoking pot in
public and calls on the Department of Administrative and Financial
Services to license marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities,
product manufacturing facilities and testing facilities.

"I believe that ending marijuana prohibition is a true part of limited
government," Libby said during the February media event to introduce
the proposal. "As a fiscal conservative, I see great potential in the
economic growth of removing these prohibitions."

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

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

Momentum for legalizing marijuana as more than a medicinal product in
Maine seems to be growing, especially in Portland. In addition to
Russell, 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 co-sponsoring LD 1229.

Last week, a consortium of advocacy groups and activists launched a
petition drive to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in
Portland. On the same day, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who
represents Maine's 1st District, signed on as a co-sponsor of a
federal bill that would lift federal prohibitions against marijuana

Russell sponsored similar legislation in the previous Legislature.
That bill fizzled after the Criminal Justice and Public Safety
Committee voted 10-3 that it ought not pass.

A public hearing on this year's bill has yet to be scheduled.
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MAP posted-by: Matt