Maine Marijuana Measure Defeated in House

If marijuana legalization is coming to Maine, it will likely have to happen next year. On June 22, 2015, the Maine House of Representatives rejected LD 1380, a bill aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in the state, by a vote of 98-45.

Introduced by Rep. Diane Russell, the bill would not have explicitly legalized recreational marijuana, but it would have put marijuana on the ballot for 2016.

The reason why the bill was set up that way was to avoid similar problems the legislature has had with the state’s medical marijuana program. Ever since voters legalized medical marijuana in 1999, the legislature has had to amend the bill several times to fix problems with the bill.

In short, it is easier to pass a good bill than it is to fix a bad one. Unfortunately for marijuana advocates, the legislature was less than convinced.

Speaking with Bangor Daily News, Rep. William Tuell said that he voted against the bill because he believes that the legislature should stay out of the way of citizen’s initiatives. “We don’t know what voters will or won’t do. They change their minds … . If the voters do legalize marijuana, [but the Legislature passes this bill], we’re essentially heading them off at the pass,” Tuell said.

Other representatives voted against the bill due to public health concerns. Rep. Karen Gerrish told Maine Public Broadcasting that legalizing marijuana was a bad idea in Colorado and that it was a bad idea for Maine as well.

“Emergency room visits have increased by 57 percent, and hospitalizations related to marijuana have increased 82 percent,” Gerrish said.

Although LD 1380 was rejected by the House, the bill is not dead yet; it still has to go through the Senate. However the Senate has already unanimously rejected a similar bill, LD 1401, so there is little hope that lawmakers will suddenly have a change of heart.

As it stands now, there is little to no chance the legislature will act on marijuana reform this year. However, efforts are still underway within the state to put recreational marijuana on the ballot for 2016. There are currently two groups pushing to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine, the Marijuana Policy Project and the homegrown group Legalize Maine.

Both groups will have to collect 62,000 signatures in order to get on the ballot for next year, but that should not be too difficult to come by in a state where more than 60 percent of voters approved medical marijuana.

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