With a marijuana legalization proposal on the horizon and a medical cannabis program that continues to evolve, Maine is an active participant in the country’s pot revolution. Last week, after voters in Colorado and Washington passed bills to abolish marijuana prohibition, state representative Diane Russell, a Democrat from Portland, announced her intent to introduce a treat-pot-like-alcohol bill in the next legislative session. (A similar bill was also announced in Rhode Island.) Meanwhile, as Massachusetts became the 18th state to legalize weed for medicinal use, advocates in Maine are working to improve our own approach to medical marijuana even after losing an important ally in Augusta.
The third-most-popular recreational drug in the United States (behind alcohol and tobacco), the drug that 50 percent of Americans believe should be made legal, is undergoing major image rehab. We no longer think that pot use leads to violent criminal behavior or irrational sexual desires, as Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics during the 1930s, did. Fourteen states have passed some sort of marijuana-decriminalization law, meaning no prison time or criminal record for someone caught with a small amount of weed for personal consumption. We’ve come a long way since Reefer Madness.
“Reformers are buoyant, and well they should be,” says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, the Washington DC-based organization working to repeal marijuana prohibition nationwide. The confluence of science and popular opinion, he says, would appear to be pushing more reticent entities “toward a