While Alaska and Oregon look to legalize recreational marijuana through ballot initiative in 2014, Maine Representative Diane Russell has been working with NORML to introduce marijuana legalization through the state legislature.
Last week, just before the bill was expected to make it out of legislative committee by a slim one vote margin, well-financed lobbyists from Maine’s established medical marijuana industry managed to flip one of the “yes” votes to “no,” dooming legislative marijuana reform before it ever had a chance to be heard by lawmakers.
The Maine bill would have legalized the possession of two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana and cultivation of six plants for personal use by adults 21 and older. The bill would also have created a regulated commercial marijuana market.
The medical marijuana lobbyists complained that they had not been “invited to the table” when it came to drafting the recreational marijuana bill. Yet the bill seemed to be written to favor established medical marijuana interests. Existing dispensaries and Maine residents were given the first dibs on the recreational marijuana licenses, similar to how Colorado’s Amendment 64 gives deference to their existing dispensaries.
“Today, corporate and profit-driven interests shunned Maine’s economic future and shut down the prospects of a new bill to regulate marijuana,” stated Representative Diane Russell. “For the record, 5% of tax revenue from the new bill would have gone to ensuring low income Mainers could afford their medical marijuana. Profits seem to be more important than patients -- and that’s just wrong.”
Additionally, Rep. Russell’s bill would have funded the hiring of new Drug Recognition Experts to help enhance highway safety, helped fund a Drugs for the Elderly program, improved addiction treatment, provided medical marijuana for low income people, and launched a marijuana youth prevention task force.
This, of course, is not the first example of established medical marijuana interests opposing marijuana legalization for healthy people. In 2008, Oregon medical marijuana activists fought a legalization proposal that would have extended medical limits to all consumers. In 2010, dispensaries funded fliers placed in medicine purchases that urged a no vote on Prop 19’s attempt to legalize. In 2012, dispensaries were the only organized and funded opposition to Washington’s I-502, fearing legalization would lead to mass DUIDs and end their untaxed market. Even in Colorado, where dispensaries were given every advantage in the emerging recreational market, a handful of medical marijuana activists fought against Amendment 64.
Perhaps with the nationwide Gallup Poll and even the Texas Public Policy Poll hitting 58% support for outright legalization, the next wave of states to legalize after 2016 can bypass medical marijuana altogether.