The sea of change continues.
Activists in Maine Tuesday filed an initiative to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over, the second such initiative in the liberal Northeast state.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted their ballot language along with the signatures of five registered Maine voters who support the measure. This is not some Cheech & Chong effort, either. The five petitioners are State Rep. Diane Russell of Portland, local farmer and former Republican State Rep. Aaron Libby of Waterboro, Androscoggin County Commissioner and Lewiston School Board Member Matt Roy, and Rev. Deane Perkins of Belfast and Sherry DaBiere, a York-based real estate agent and grandmother.
“I am supporting this initiative because it will make Maine a safer place for my children and my grandchildren,” DaBiere stated. “Marijuana should be regulated and controlled so that we know who is selling it, what they’re selling, and where it’s being sold. I do not want future generations to be exposed to the same failed prohibition laws that I had to grow up with. It’s time to end the reefer madness.”
Opponents of legalization in Maine said they worry about Maine teenagers being exposed to legal pot. That argument contains the false premise that prohibition controls teen access to the drug. In reality, teen access to marijuana has been very high for decades, despite the arrest of roughly 750,000 Americans per year for pot. By contrast, taxation, regulation, and public health messaging has reduced tobacco and alcohol use by teens to historic lows.
Under the proposed Maine initiative, adults 21 years of age and older could possess up to one ounce of marijuana, grow up to six marijuana plants, and possess the marijuana produced by those plants.
The measure calls for a tightly regulated system of licensed retail cannabis stores, cultivation facilities, product-manufacturing facilities, and testing labs. Municipalities could ban pot shops. And a 10% pot sales tax on top of the standard sales tax would go to public education.
“Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and this initiative simply proposes that we treat it that way,” Roy stated. “If this initiative passes, adults would be able to purchase marijuana in taxpaying businesses instead of in the underground market. It would generate significant new revenue for our public schools.”
The Maine Secretary of State must review the initiative, and after approval, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol must collect approximately 62,000 signatures of registered Maine voters by January 2016 to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.
“Marijuana prohibition is a failed government program, and we’re proposing a sensible and more responsible alternative,” Libby stated. “This initiative will ultimately replace the underground market with legitimate businesses that create good jobs for Maine residents. Regulating marijuana like alcohol just makes sense.”