Lawmaker Releases Bill to
Legalize, Tax and Regulate Marijuana
Supporters rally at Portland City Hall to Celebrate
PORTLAND - Supporters will gather for a press conference at Portland City Hall Wednesday at 10:00 AM to formally release LD 1453, "An Act to Legalize and Tax Marijuana," sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland).
"It is time to stop turning otherwise law-abiding people into criminals, begin taxing Marijuana for commercial sale, and refocus our criminal justice resources toward issues that are truly devastating communities," said Rep. Russell.
The bill, which has Republican and Democratic cosponsors, would legalize the personal use and cultivation of marijuana, tax consumer purchases at 7%, license certain commercial marijuana-related activities, while providing provisions to protect minors, employers and schools.
"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 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."
The bill directs the state to distribute the revenue generated by the tax equally among specific programs that benefit farmers, preserve land, assist law enforcement, fund weatherization and support higher education.
"If done correctly then this proposed legislation will not only be the end to a failed policy of prohibition, but will be a fantastic job creator for Mainer's from Kittery to Madawaska," said Jonathan Leavitt, director for the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative. "As Maine is already known for lobsters, blueberries, and potato's, so it is now becoming known for Maine homegrown marijuana. And unlike these other industries, the small farmer will actually benefit."
The state legislature hopes to see more than $400,000 in five-percent sales-tax revenue from the voter approved marijuana dispensaries in their first full year of operation (starting this summer), and hundreds of thousands more after that.
According to estimates by Harvard University studies, replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation would save between $10 billion and $14 billion per year in reduced government spending and increased tax revenues nationally.
"States around the country are beginning to acknowledge that criminalizing people who use drugs is costly, inhumane and damaging to society," said Maine Civil Liberties Public Policy Counsel Alysia Melnick. "In addition to diverting scarce law enforcement and judicial resources from serious crime, the impact of even a misdemeanor conviction for marijuana possession creates barriers in finding a house, a job, and even a school loan. This bill represents smart policy that would regulate and tax marijuana for adults, just like alcohol and tobacco."
More than 750 people from across the country and around the state have signed onto an online petition supporting the bill.
The bill, LD 1435, will have a public hearing in the coming weeks. It must be approved by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee prior to votes by the full legislature in the House and Senate.
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