PORTLAND, Maine - Travel writer and public television host Rick Steves has been in Maine the last couple of days to lend his support to the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
Steves has donated $100,000 to the campaign in an effort to pass Question 1 on the November ballot. He says he sees Question 1 as a common sense way to legalize, tax and regulate a relatively benign drug, despite the concerns raised by the opposition.
"Here in Maine it just seems like the political establishment is talking like it's 2010, and in 2010 I could understand politicians being nervous about this," Steeves says. "But this is 2016 now. We have a track record. We know in Colorado and Washington it's been four years since we legalized, taxed and regulated marijuana. Use has not gone up. Teen use has not gone up. Crime has not gone up and DUIs have not gone up. What has gone up is tax revenue."
In his home state of Washington, Steves says the government is enjoying a $120 million worth of tax revenue that is not coming out of people's pockets but coming out of a once-thriving black market that has been turned on its head.
A member of the advisory board of NORML - the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws - Steves describes himself as a recreational pot smoker who came to favor the lifting of prohibition after spending time in Europe.
Steves says he does not want to see the equivalent of Big Tobacco take over the retail marijuana market, which is why he says he likes Question 1's limits on licensing.
As for the Maine attorney general's finding that measure contains a loophole that could make it legal for minors to use pot without penalty, Steves says there's a simple solution.
"Nobody wants people under 21 to have marijuana, and right off the bat in the Legislature, Maine would fix that provision and make it really explicit and clear that this is for mature, adult use - people over 21, and restrictions and safeguards to keep marijuana away from kids."
Five states are considering marijuana measures this fall, including Maine and Massachusetts, where Steves heads next. He has also pledged $100,000 toward passage of that measure.