L-A lawmakers among 35 co-sponsors of bill to legalize pot

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 Sabattus.l

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 use.

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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Comments

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

We got a pot growing facility

We got a pot growing facility going on in Auburn. What's next, a meth lab for Lewiston?

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Another case of

Another case of big brother looking out for the populations best interest. If pot were legal the price would drop to almost nothing. There would be no one getting rich off selling it or sneaking it into the country ( think Joe Kennedy and prohibition here).

Everyone has a bad habit, some peoples is booze, mine happens to be cigarettes.

I have never tried a joint or care to. However who am I to tell you that you can't sit in your home at any time and do something that you enjoy?

TOTALLY STUPID

This has git to be the DUMBEST idea yet!!! but it WOULD make for funny reading i8n the SJ for example a entry in the Courthouse records column would read as follows... "John Doe arrested on Lisbon street for "walking under the influence"

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Why is it a dumb idea? Please

Why is it a dumb idea? Please explain.

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