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Maine Marijuana Legalization Bill Set Back, But Not Dead

By Thomas H. Clarke May 15, 2013 Maine Marijuana Legalization Bill Set Back, But Not Dead
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"The bill is not dead," says sponsor Rep. Dianne Russell

AUGUSTA, ME – A bill that would make Maine the third state to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana failed to gain a key committee endorsement Tuesday, but the bill’s sponsor feels that enough support exists among state lawmakers for the bill to continue.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday voted 8-3 against endorsing LD 1229, “An Act to Tax and Regulate Marijuana,” sponsored by State Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) and 35 co-sponsors,  citing concerns that the legislation would put Maine in conflict with federal laws prohibiting marijuana.

The committee’s House chair, Rep. Mark Dion (D-Portland), said he voted against the measure because the federal government needs to first resolve their position on marijuana before he could endorse the bill.

Although the committee vote would normally suggest the death of a bill, there remains considerable support among Maine lawmakers, and the proposed legislation could still be called to a floor debate in the House and Senate this year.

“This has been an uphill battle the whole time, but reaction from people has been unbelievable. The bill is not dead,” said Rep. Russell. “There is a lot more support in the Legislature for my bill than was evidenced today.”

LD 1229 would make the private possession and home growing of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older.

It would direct the Department of Administrative and Financial Services to license and regulate marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities, and it would enact an excise tax of $50 per ounce on wholesale sales.

The bill would also allow the state to begin regulating the cultivation, processing, and distribution of industrial hemp.

If state lawmakers approve the bill this session, it will be referred to voters in the upcoming November election.

If the measure gets carried over and approved during the next legislative session, it will be placed on the November 2014 ballot.

Last November, voters in Colorado and Washington State approved measures making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and directing state regulatory bodies to create regulations for businesses to cultivate and sell marijuana to adults.

Bills to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol have been introduced in over a dozen states this year.

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