UPDATE 6/14/2011- 11:13AM ET – Maine House accepts the “ought not to pass” report from Criminal Justice Committee – bill sent to Senate.
6/13/2011 – World leaders and even President Obama say that there should be a “legitimate” debate about cannabis prohibition. But this week a body of elected officials may actually engage in that dialogue. The House and Senate in Maine could consider LD 1453, “An Act to Legalize and Tax Marijuana.” The last two days of the legislative session are this week. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland), says that the issue has garnered enough interest among her peers for a floor debate.
Today Russell sent an email to supporters that said, “We have all worked so hard for this to happen and now the day is upon us.”
LD 1453 had a hearing on May 10th before the Criminal Justice Committee where two caveats were added. It must wait to become law until 1) federal policy changes and 2) it is approved by Maine voters directly on the ballot. Those two criteria must be met after LD 1453 passes a floor vote in both houses (outside chance but possible) and is then signed by Governor LePage (less possible). The bill creates careful systems of regulated cultivation, cannabis sales (to adults only) and taxation models.
This week marks the 40th year since President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” that has largely been fought against marijuana consumers. A 1972 Presidential Commission presented a report that called for cannabis to be de-scheduled from the Controlled Substances Act and that personal possession should be decriminalized at the federal level. Nixon instead placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and began vigorous enforcement worldwide.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy held a press conference on June 2, 2011 calling for governments to explore new options to replace criminal prohibition. Regulating cannabis was a priority, especially for the former Presidents of Colombia and Brazil.
This week there will be demonstrations, press conferences and vigils commemorating the victims in the 40 years of prohibition. But the live stream from the State House in Maine may be the only chance to see politicians get into the nuts and bolts of crafting a vital solution for cannabis.
Because it is the end of the session, the debate for LD 1453 is not a sure thing. Rep. Russell is asking Maine residents to contact their legislators and support the bill’s open debate. Maine House: (207) 287-1400 — Maine Senate: (207) 287-1540.
Grassroots link: http://www.facebook.com/LegalizeMaineFirst
Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions? [email protected]