Legislation that would legalize and tax the recreational use of marijuana in Maine now has 35 co-sponsors in the state legislature.
“Support for changing our marijuana laws is growing as more and more elected officials realize it makes no sense to maintain a system of prohibition for a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol,” David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “Maine can and should take a more sensible approach to marijuana policy, and we are glad to see so many legislators agree.”
The 28 Democrats, 3 Republicans, 1 Independent, and 2 tribal representatives who are co-sponsoring the bill represent a major shift from 2012, when similar legislation gained little support.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Diane Russell (D), would allow those over 21 years of age to purchase marijuana from state-licensed stores. Individuals could legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of the drug and grow up to six marijuana plants. The legislation reflects the state's current medical marijuana laws, with the major exception being that anyone -- not just those with a serious illness -- would have access to the drug.
If the Maine legislature approves the bill, it would go to a statewide referendum in 2014.
Voters in Washington state and Colorado approved similar measures in November 2012.
“Sometimes bills have to percolate before they really resonate,” Russell told Raw Story in February. “When Colorado and Washington decided to regulate marijuana like alcohol, a real snowball came at me. I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal, but in the end it’s become a real culture shift, and that shift has really happened across the country.”
Along with Maine, the Marijuana Policy Project expects to see strong marijuana legalization efforts in Oregon and California.
[Woman smoking marijuana via Shutterstock]