And then there were five. Maine and Maryland became the latest states to see marijuana legalization bills filed this year, with lawmakers in those two states rolling out measures this week. They join Hawaii (already killed), Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, with Pennsylvania and Vermont expected to add to the list shortly.
In Maine, state Reps. Diane Russell (D-Portland) and Aaron Libby (R-Waterford) held a press conference Thursday to unveil details of their new bill, the Tax and Regulate Marijuana Act (no bill number or online text yet available). As the title suggests, it would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and over.
The bill would remove criminal penalties for possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana, direct a state agency to license and regulate marijuana commerce, including industrial hemp, create a $50 an ounce excise tax on wholesale sales, and allow localities to not allow marijuana commerce.
“When it comes to keeping marijuana away from teens, keeping marijuana in an unregulated underground market is the worst possible policy,” Rep. Russell said. “Instead, marijuana should be sold by legitimate, taxpaying businesses in a tightly regulated market.”
“Marijuana is objectively far less harmful than alcohol for the consumer and for the broader community,” said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It is irrational to punish adults who simply prefer to use the less harmful substance. Law enforcement resources should be focused on preventing and responding to serious crimes rather than enforcing the failed policy of marijuana prohibition,” Boyer said. “It’s time for a more sensible approach.”
It won’t be easy. Under Maine law, if the bill passes, it must then go before the voters in November. If the voters approve it then, it goes back to the legislature next session. If the legislature then approves it a second time, it would then go back before the voters a second time on the November 2014 ballot.
In Maryland, Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore) Thursday introduced House Bill 1453, which would legalize the possession of up to an ounce and three plants for adults 21 and over. It would also create a system of regulation and taxation for marijuana commerce and impose a $50 an ounce excise tax on wholesale marijuana transactions.
Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana in the November elections, and Alaska allows the possession of small amounts in one’s home. The race is now on to be the next state to hop on the marijuana legalization bandwagon.
– Article originally from Stop the Drug War, used with permission.