Maine's Pot Politics
Portland Representative Dianne Russell is holding a rally and press conference this morning to formally announce the introduction of LD 1453, legislation to legalize and tax marijuana in Maine.
While Maine voters have approved two recent medical marijuana referendums, including a 2009 vote to set up dispensaries that passed with 59% support, there seems to be little backing in the legislature for full legalization. Two similar bills were voted down by the in unanimous decisions earlier this month.
Russell's bill, however, does have five co-sponsors. Supporters include Democrat Andrew O'Brien, who backs the measure along with Penobscot Nation Rep. Wayne Mitchell and Republicans Fred Wintle, Rich Cebra, and Aaron Libby.
National polls have shown a narrowing of public opinion on the issue over the past two decades, and a recent Pew poll showed 45% of Americans in favor of legalization and 50% against. The demographic trends seem to be promising for legalization advocates, as younger voters are much more likely to say that marijuana should be legal than older ones. College graduates and independent voters are also more likely to support legalization.
"The current policy has left us with absolutely no control over the market leaving young people readily able to access marijuana," said Rep. Russell in a release. "In addition, we are considering serious cuts to public safety and education as a result of a bad economy. Let's create a stringent regulatory system to protect our children while securing tax revenue from a market we all know exists."
A similar effort in California, which went to a referendum vote, lost narrowly with 53% opposing legalization on election day despite early polls showing the issue winning at the ballot.