Rep Diane Russell (Portland): Maine must lead marijuana regulation (Video, Text, Pix)
Link to full press conference conducted 21 Feb 2013. Speakers included: Rep. Russell, Shenna Bellows of ACLU of Maine, Denny Gallaudet (retired bank president and retired superintendent), David Boyer of the Marijuana Policy Project and Rep. Aaron Libby (R- Waterboro).
Representative Russell’s full address, as prepared:
“Maine is a remarkable case study in how a state can regulate marijuana in a controlled, responsible manner that balances the broad interests of public safety, substance abuse and parents. We have retail establishments that grow and supply marijuana to responsible customers.
We have proven that this can be done for medical purposes, and now it is time to institute that same strict regulatory infrastructure for responsible adult recreational consumers.
When was the last time you heard of a drug dealer carding a kid? It doesn’t happen. Responsible Maine business owners who sell alcohol do it all the time. It is time we let business owners who card their consumers earn the profits and not the drug dealers or drug cartels.
Two years ago, I introduced legislation to tax and regulate marijuana. I introduced it because I realized that the trends were shifting and public policy was going to have to shift to meet this new culture shift. What I did not realize was just how quickly that change would come.
Historically, the end of alcohol Prohibition began the day New York decriminalized its production. In our generation’s prohibition, Washington and Colorado were the tipping points. The question of whether to legalize or not was answered for history in November when voters in two states voted to allow marijuana to be taxed and regulated.Most people have been remarkably supportive of my efforts and many share my concern about preventing young people from having access to marijuana. 85% of high school seniors are telling us that they have easy access to it. That number has not dipped below 82% since 1975. The War on Drugs began in 1971. If the metric by which we measure this program is the success we have had in getting it out of the hands of young people, then we have failed. Prohibition did not work with alcohol and it has not worked with marijuana, either.
Today, I join my colleagues in asking the legislature to do the responsible thing and to set up a regulatory infrastructure that takes into account the broad spectrum of interests: from law enforcement, from substance abuse counselors and especially from parents and teachers. Let us not bury our heads in the sands, hoping this issue will simply go away. We have been doing that for far too long as it is, and now we can see the trend is coming.
My bill would set up a strong regulatory infrastructure for the in-state cultivation and sale of marijuana to adults over the age of 21 by licensed retailers. It gives preference to Maine-based business owners, dispensaries and caregivers in the application process to do what we can to ensure we are creating Maine jobs.
This bill provides lawmakers an opportunity to have an open and transparent process to refine the regulatory framework of the current bill to ensure Mainers can be confident in the end result. If approves by the Legislature and Governor, the bill would go to the people for ratification by referendum.
Maine has been a model state in how we regulate medical marijuana. We have been smart, conservative and responsible, proving that our state has the knowledge and ability to regulate properly. Our state motto, Dirigo, reminds us that we must lead. I’m asking my colleagues to do just that.