War on Drugs

Maine Considers Public Vote on Marijuana Legalization After Bill Fails

Smoke out the opposition


A bid to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Maine was imperiled by a strong negative vote Tuesday in the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, though the bill's sponsor, Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, insisted that the issue is not dead.

With two members absent, the committee voted 8-3 against LD 1229, An Act to Regulate and Tax Marijuana. The three lawmakers in the minority, led by Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, said they would urge the full Legislature to place a general referendum question about legalizing recreational use of marijuana on this November's statewide ballot.

Those who voted against the bill cited numerous reasons ranging from being uncomfortable with legalized marijuana to worries about state government's ability to develop a framework to regulate it in a timely manner.

"This bill proposes sweeping changes in terms of public safety, public health and tax policy," said Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, a retired police officer who co-chairs the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and who was instrumental in lobbying for the state's medical marijuana law. "I would move with a lot more trepidation today than I did in 1999 [during the medical marijuana debate]. In good conscience I cannot support the sweeping changes in this bill. This requires a lot of work."