AUGUSTA – Curtailment, budget shortfall – not if Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, can help it. Russell thinks she may just have found part of the answer to the state’s current financial crisis.
On Thursday, Feb. 21, she proposed a new bill to the state legislature that would make it legal for adults over 21 to use and possess small amounts of marijuana for personal and recreational use. Russell’s bill would allow citizens to have up to 2.5 ounces and six plants. Maine may soon join Colorado in legalizing marijuana.
“Legalization efforts in Washington and Colorado were tipping points,” Russell said. “It’s time for the people of Maine to take a serious look at marijuana policy.”
Russell’s proposal calls for the state to both regulate and tax the new cash crop. Based on her bill, licenses would be issued to those that grow, sell and test the state’s marijuana crop. The fee for these licenses may cost as much as $5,000.
”The people are far ahead of the politicians on this,” Russell said. ”Just in the past few weeks we’ve seen the culture shift dramatically.”
With her bill, Russell proposed the state collect a tax of $50 for every ounce that’s produced at licensed cultivation facilities, and later she estimated the total revenue collected by the state might be as much as $13 million annually.
News and media outlets from across the nation are watching the state’s legislature to see if Rep. Russell’s bill will become law. Rolling Stone Magazine has even gone so far as to say that Maine is the 5th most likely state in the nation to next legalize pot.
Even if the bill passes through the legislature, it still must be approved by the public. If it is approved in the state capital this spring, in November, the question will be presented to the public in the form of a referendum. The voters will make the final decision.
“We have proven here in Maine this can be done for medicinal purposes, and it is now time to institute that same strict regulatory infrastructure for responsible adult recreational consumers,” Rep. Russell said.