AUGUSTA — Law enforcement officials, public health organizations and critics of the “war on drugs” clashed Wednesday over bills seeking to legalize marijuana, offering a potential preview of statewide debate over recreational use of the drug.
Sponsors of the two bills — Democratic Reps. Diane Russell and Mark Dion of Portland — argued that marijuana’s widespread use and low addictiveness merit regulating the drug like alcohol. They also said the time is right for Maine to learn from states such as Colorado — and from Maine’s own tightly regulated medical marijuana market — by bringing a black market industry into the legal light and directing the resulting tax revenue toward more pressing problems.
“Prohibition is a failed experiment, period,” said Dion, a former Cumberland County sheriff and Portland police officer. “We do have a major drug problem in this state, but it involves opiate addition, and we need to bring every resource to bear on that problem.”
The bills’ many opponents warned that legalizing recreational use of marijuana merely would lead to more widespread drug abuse among young people, more impaired driving and other costly consequences. [Read more at the Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel]
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