Politics

March 21, 2013

Pingree backs bill legalizing marijuana

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WASHINGTON – Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree has signed onto a bill that would legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol at the federal level.

Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree has signed onto a bill that would legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol at the federal level.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Pingree, a Democrat, is one of 14 House members to endorse a proposal by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., to drop marijuana from the federal government's list of scheduled drugs.

Polis' bill would remove the federal Drug Enforcement Agency from the equation when it comes to enforcing marijuana laws. It would instead put the drug under the auspices of the Food and Drug Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

In fact, it would rename the ATF the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, Firearms and Explosives.

The odds of the bill getting anywhere in the Republican-controlled House are slim to none. But two states -- Colorado and Washington -- voted to legalize pot last November, and a Maine lawmaker has sponsored a bill to do the same in the Pine Tree State.

The Portland Green Independent Committee also is working on a petition to legalize marijuana in the state's largest city. Medical marijuana is already legal in Maine.

Pingree's position on the issue is not necessarily surprising.

Shortly after the votes in Colorado and Washington, Pingree joined 16 other House Democrats who wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to respect the voters' decisions. At the time, Pingree said she believed there were better ways for the federal government to spend its money than prosecuting people who are obeying state laws.

Willy Ritch, spokeswoman for Pingree, said Polis' legislation is patterned after the successful legalization bills in those two states.

"She feels this is a common-sense approach to marijuana regulation," Ritch said.

David Boyer, Maine policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, praised Polis' bill and Pingree for her support.

"It makes no sense to punish individuals for using a substance less harmful than alcohol," Boyer said in a statement.

"Instead, we should allow adults to use marijuana legally while regulating the production and sale of the substance. We will not only better control production and sales, but we will also create new jobs and generate tax revenue."

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, the majority shareholder of MaineToday Media, which publishes the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal and the Waterville Morning Sentinel.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@mainetoday.com

On Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

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