Maine Legislature won’t allow voters to decide marijuana legalization

June 11th, 2013 by admin Leave a reply »

AUGUSTA A bill that would ask voters if they want to legalize marijuana is all but dead following a vote by the Senate on Monday to defeat the measure.

The Senate voted 24-10 to reject the referendum following a lengthy debate between those who argued that lawmakers should act now to regulate what they described as the inevitable legalization of marijuana and those who worried that sending the issue to voters would double as an endorsement by the Legislature.

Mondays vote in the Senate was a more decisive rejection than in the House, which defeated the measure 71-67 on Friday.

As originally drafted, the bill, L.D. 1229, sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, would have legalized and taxed marijuana. It was later amended in committee to put the issue to voters. Should Mainers agree to legalize marijuana, a state agency would then determine how the sale of cannabis should be regulated and taxed.

Supporters in the Senate said that lawmakers too often failed to get ahead of issues with popular support.

Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, compared marijuana legalization to the authorization of casinos. Valentino said that repeated casino referendums ultimately allowed supporters of specific gambling projects, instead of the state, to determine how revenues would be distributed. She said Maine risks the same outcome by failing to draft rules regulating and taxing marijuana should voters agree that it should be legalized.

Sen. John Cleveland, D-Auburn, agreed. He said special-interest groups that craft Maine law via referendum create laws that are not in the

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