Politics

November 15, 2012

Maine lawmaker seeks to legalize marijuana

Rep. Diane Russell's bill would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in Maine, and comes a week after Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational use of the drug.

By MATT BYRNE and DENNIS HOEY Staff Writers

(Continued from page 1)

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With a lone protestor in background, Rep. Diane Russell holds a press conference in April 2011 at Portland City Hall to advocate legalizing and taxing marijuana. Russell is once again pushing for legalization, one week after voters in Colorado and Washington helped those states become the first to legalize recreational use of the drug.

Staff File Photo

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If passed, Russell's bill would legalize the sale of as much as 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana per week to people 21 or older at licensed retail locations. The law would also legalize the cultivation of the plant in private settings.

The bill calls for controls, too, she said. It would outlaw use of the substance in public and in places where cigarette smoking is also banned. Employers would have full latitude to regulate their employees' use of the drug on the job, as well.

Tax revenue from the sale of legalized weed would help pay for higher education, agriculture, land preservation and law enforcement, Russell said.

Newly elected leaders of the 126th Legislature, Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, did not return calls and messages seeking comment on the proposed law. Eves voted against the bill last year during a roll-call vote in the House.

Julie Rabinowitz, a spokeswoman for Gov. Paul LePage, declined to comment on the measure.

Russell said she hopes that the shift in policies across the nation could spur lawmakers who voted against her last year to come around.

"I've already heard from a considerable amount of folks, from one session to the next, who say, 'I should have voted with you, you were right,'" Russell said. "I know some folks are looking at the language to see if there are some tweaks we can make to it."

She declined to identify lawmakers who reached out to her since Election Day, saying it was a courtesy to her colleagues to keep the thoughts of others private.

Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

mbyrne@mainetoday.com

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Today's poll: Legalized marijuana

Do you believe Maine should legalize, tax and regulate marijuana?

Yes

No

View Results

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