Maine lawmakers decide on fate of legalization proposal today


The Maine Legislative Council today will vote on whether or not to allow a measure to be introduced in the coming session that would legalize the possession, cultivation and use of limited amounts of cannabis for adults 21 and up.
Portland Rep. Diane Russell, who introduced the bill and who’s city voted to legalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis earlier this month, says she’s hopeful the measure will move forward.

The bill, which has the enormously long title of ‘An Act to Align Maine’s Marijuana Laws with the Guidelines Governing Taxation and Regulation Issued by the Federal Government”, would allow adults to possess up to 2.5 ounce of pot and grow up to six plants at a time with no more than three in flower at any given time. The catch is that local police may also issue tags for plants, which requires people to register their plants with the cops – giving even more revenue to the state.
The bill would require people to be Maine residents before they could operate a business and would give preference to existing medical businesses that want to transfer over to recreational stores. The bill would also impose up to a 25 percent tax on cannabis sold at retail stores and cannabis would likely be decriminalized for adults under 21. The bill would also leave the current medical marijuana program as it is.

Dianne Russell.

Interestingly, the proposal’s overview states that the tax money is needed for enforcement and says that Colorado is “experiencing difficulties in setting up its regulatory structure because they did not set aside revenue for the process, and their licensing fees have not met the revenue needs.” That isn’t exactly true, and much of Colorado’s enforcement problems came from poor money management on the department’s end. The same half-truth was sold to Colorado voters who approved a 10 percent sales tax on cannabis in addition to a 15 percent excise tax earlier this month.
Portland NORML says the bill “presents a smart approach on marijuana for the state of Maine.” But not everyone supports the measure. A group of medical marijuana caregivers has come out against the bill, arguing that legalizing cannabis sales recreationally would destroy the small medical caregivers. They say that big money interests will control all of the cannabis production, taking money out of state to investors.
“Maine’s fledgling marijuana industry is coming to a cross road where we must decide if we are going to have thousands of good paying jobs on small farms, or a few factory farms where the money is shipped out of state,” Paul T. McCarrier, legislative advocate for Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, in an email message to the Portland Daily Sun. “We think that thousands of jobs can come from this if done right. Proposing policy based upon mercurial federal guidelines is irresponsible legislating. Medical marijuana patients need guarantees that their rights will not be taken away on the whim of a federal official. These guidelines negatively affects Maine medical marijuana patients, as Washington state’s legalization model has gutted patient’s rights in that state.”
Russel countered those arguments, saying that the caregivers are only interested in their own bottom lines: There are certain people who happen to be very vocal that are worried under a legalized model they will lose money.”
Or they could be concerned about any number of other things, namely the possibility of having to register their legal grows with police and putting up with an absurdly high tax rate.