An effort to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Maine has failed in the state’s Legislative Council, which vets bills before they can be introduced for consideration.
The bill would have legalized, taxed, and regulated the use of
marijuana in the state, but it failed to gather majority support
in the council. The final vote was 5-5, and the bill will not be
considered again until 2015.
The tabling of the bill comes after Portland, Maine, became the
first city on the East Coast to officially legalize the drug
earlier this month.
“Portland had spoken so loudly that it’s a shame that
Legislative Council didn’t listen to them,” said Democratic
state Rep. Diane Russell, who introduced the bill, to the
Portland Daily Sun. About 81 percent of votes in Russell’s
district voted for Portland’s initiative to legalize pot, which
passed easily citywide with 70 percent support overall.
If Russell’s measure had passed its initial vote, it would’ve
been brought up for consideration during the state’s four-month
second legislative session that begins on January
1. Under Maine’s constitution, this session is
reserved for emergency and budget-related bills, and according to
one of the council’s nay votes, there is simply not enough time
to debate and analyze such an important proposal.
“We’re going into a short session [in January], and for
Portlanders and Mainers this short session is exactly four
months, and for a bill that is this complex and this big, I did
not feel it had the time to have the stakeholders come
together,” said Democratic state Senator Justin Alfond, whose
district is also located in Portland, to the Daily Sun.
Supporters of the bill, including Marijuana Policy Project
Political Director David Boyer, told the Huffington Post it’s
disappointing to see Alfond vote against a bill his constituents
“To have a senator that represents a large portion of
Portland, where an average of 80 percent of voters supported the
initiative, is kind of disheartening,” Boyer said.
Despite the setback, Russell thanked the council members who
voted in favor of her proposal and vowed to continue pushing for
its passage in the future.
“I appreciate the bipartisan members who voted with everyday
Mainers,” Russell said. “It’s disappointing that we were
one vote shy, but we will continue to work toward a pragmatic
approach that will protect children while also protecting the
liberties of our citizens.”
So far, only two states – Colorado and Washington – have
legalized the use of pot, though numerous states, including
Maine, allow the sale of medical marijuana.