Debate over bill that would legalize marijuana in Maine

6:54 PM, Feb 21, 2013   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- State lawmakers are considering a bill that would legalize the sale and use of marijuana in Maine, and would tax and regulate it like alcohol.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon in Augusta, Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, presented a bill that would allow adults over 21 years of age to use and possess marijuana in limited amounts for personal use.  Personal possession would be limited to 2.5 ounces and six plants.  

Under the proposed legislation, licenses would also be established for retailers, producers, cultivators, and laboratories. Marijuana would be taxed at a rate of $50 per ounce that would be imposed on cultivation facilities, and revenue generated would go to the state's General Fund, implementing the law, funding substance abuse programs, and research.

"We have proven here in Maine this can be done for medicinal purposes, and it is now time to institute that same strict regulatory infrastructure for responsible adult recreational consumers," Rep. Russell said.

Supporters of the bill have argued it would create a safer environment by putting marijuana in the hands of responsible, licensed distributors, and it would keep non-violent offenders out of jails.

However, some members of law enforcement have reservations about the bill.  

Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce said at the State House Thursday that police spend a lot of time and money cracking down on illegal alcohol use and drunk driving and just scratch the surface.  

"I don't have a lot of agreement with it," Sheriff Joyce said.  "I know they want to to legalize it, tax it, and regulate it.  Quite frankly, we're trying to regulate alcohol.  We have been for decades, and sometimes I wonder if we are doing a job there."

If the bill is passed by the legislature this session, it will then be sent to voters for approval in a referendum.

NEWS CENTER

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