Maine, Marijuana and the Rise of the Independents

December 16th, 2012 by admin Leave a reply »

The resounding vote last month by statewide referenda in Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana has fired up new impetus to allow Maine voters the same opportunity. That was reflected by the announcement of State Representative Diane Russell, formerly of Bryant Pond but now of Portland, of her intent to re-introduce a bill to, in effect, put marijuana on a par with alcohol use under state law. The bill would thus authorize its use, subject to taxation, by those over 21. Though a similar bill Russell sponsored two years ago lost 107 to 39 in the House, Russell expects to pick up more support for the measure in the upcoming session, in part because she has attached a referendum rider to this year’s bill.

Maine has long been in the vanguard of the de-criminalization arena. As far back as 1976, for example, the state became one of the first in the nation to take the criminal bite out of possession for small amounts — usually less than an 1¼. Maine then substituted a “civil violation” for which a forfeiture of no more than $200 could be assessed (the maximum has since been increased to $600.). Even today, only 13 other states have taken this step.

In 1979, the Maine Legislature, then controlled by Republicans, passed a law endorsing medical marijuana. However, since the bill required that supplies of the drug had to be first made available through the government it never went into effect.

In 1999, we were only the seventh state to

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