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Race To Legalize Weed In Maine, Legalization Groups Fighting Each Other

Maine state Rep. Diane Russell is introducing an additional bill to regulate and tax marijuana, hoping to beat citizen referenda aiming to legalize marijuana on different terms, Bangor Daily News reports.

Russell is convinced that legalization of marijuana in Maine is nothing short of an inevitability. Three marijuana-related bills are already under consideration by lawmakers, including one which helps police determine if drivers are under the influence of pot when operating vehicles.

Her proposed legislation would reinstate liquor inspectors and task them with paying attention to marijuana, as well. In general, legal marijuana would look much like legal alcohol.

“It would dedicate tax revenue, significant tax revenue, to school construction so that we can make sure we’re building new schools and remodeling old schools so our children have an opportunity to have a solid education,” Rep. Russell told CBS 13.

The rush to put as many bills as possible before the legislature reflects a growing uncertainty among legislators as to what marijuana legalization will look like in the state. Two organizations, the Marijuana Policy Project and Legalize Maine, are aiming to forward citizen referendums either in 2015 or 2016 to pre-empt the legislature.

“Rep. Diane Russell’s bill may or may not pass but due to the timeline, we will have to begin drafting and circulating our petition before we will know what the legislature wants to do,” David Boyer, Maine Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

If voters pass even one of the measures, legislators may have their hands tied when it comes to setting conditions for legalization. According to Rep. Russell, her bill is the last chance for legislators to consider the issue.

“The best thing to do is get ahead of the issue, set the policy and send it to referendum to let the people decide,” Rep. Russell said.

But the advocacy organization Legalize Maine is not ready to back down.

“It is expected that legislation to legalize marijuana will be introduced in the 2015 Maine State Legislative Session. We expect portions of this bill to represent out of state corporate interests. We will use our experience and network of stakeholders to fight for common sense rules and regulations that represent our principals,” the group stated.

Even between legalization non-profits, there’s considerable competition. Paul McCarrier from Legalize Maine blasted the legislature and the Marijuana Policy Project for trying to impose policy on Maine which forwards out of the state interests.

“We are not interested in being subjugated to MPP or the Washington D.C. policy,” McCarrier said back in November. “These will be competing measures and we will win.” The two referendums look slightly different from each other. Legalize Maine’s proposal taxes marijuana at 8 percent and allows possession of two and a half ounces. On the other hand, the Marijuana Policy Project’s initiative closely matches Amendment 64 in Colorado.

Russell is also gearing up to sponsor legislation which removes any qualifying conditions necessary for patients to obtain medical marijuana. Instead, according to Russell, access should be a matter of a patient-doctor dialogue.

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