Monday, March 10, 2014
By Bill Nemitz firstname.lastname@example.org
(Continued from page 1)
"This actually has a shot at passing," says State Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, who's hoping to make Maine the third state to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
John Patriquin / Staff Photographer
AIRING IT OUT
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But is the Legislature, which trounced a similar bill introduced by Russell in 2011, ready to take a second look this soon?
Russell thinks so – and she's getting support from, of all places, conservative Republicans.
Enter Rep. Aaron Libby, a libertarian Republican from Waterboro who appeared with Russell at Thursday's news conference to stoke support for the bill.
"I definitely think you're going to see a change from last session to this session," predicted Libby, one of five Republicans who supported Russell's bill last time. "I think it's going to be very close."
Maybe Libby's dreaming. Or maybe the more lawmakers on both sides of the aisle take a whiff of this once-unheard-of legislation and float it past their constituents, the more they'll warm up to it.
There is, after all, money behind all that cannabis -- Russell estimates that her proposed $50-per-ounce excise tax on marijuana wholesalers would generate at least $13 million a year in state revenue. (Not to mention the sales tax paid by consumers and income tax paid by legal dealers.)
There's also a better chance of keeping legal pot out of the hands of kids, who tell pollster after pollster that it's far easier to score a joint than it is to buy a cigarette or a beer.
"When was the last time you heard of a drug dealer carding a kid?" mused Russell. "It doesn't happen."
(Speaking of those street-level pot dealers, wouldn't it be smarter social policy to put them out of business rather than spend millions keeping them locked up in jail?)
Finally, there's the chill factor.
Let's face it, folks, alcohol can be one messy recreational drug.
Depending on who's drinking it and how much, booze frequently leads to fistfights inside and outside bars, hangovers, serious addiction, domestic disturbances, trouble with the cops and, in cases of extreme consumption, trips to the emergency room.
Marijuana, on the other hand, leads to the munchies, fascination with inanimate objects and the occasional case of the giggles.
Heck, with all the snarling across The Great Divide these days, a bipartisan bong or two might even produce some sorely needed tranquility.
As Russell, a self-proclaimed "bourbon girl," so aptly put it, "Why do you think they call it a peace pipe?"
Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: