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New Group Kicks off Maine Marijuana Legalization Effort

Susan Sharon

AUGUSTA, Maine - A new group calling itself Legalize Maine today kicked off a statewide campaign to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over, and to put the issue before Maine voters in 2016.  

The proposal, which is still in the early stages, would allow adults to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, to cultivate up to six flowering marijuana plants and 12 non-flowering plants and an unlimited number of seedlings.  

It also calls for marijuana to be taxed at 8 percent, the same rate as food, lodging and liquor.  The group's president, Paul T. McCarrier, says the idea is to benefit Mainers.

"I feel like this an opportunity, not just for Maine but for the nation and for our rural economies across the country," McCarrier says. "This is an opportunity to provide an example that does not come out of Washington, D.C., that does not come from Wall Street, but comes from the back 40, that comes from our small towns."

McCarrier is the former executive director of the Caregivers Association of Maine, a trade association representing several hundred medical marijuana caregivers in the state.  He says he thinks the citizens' initiative can co-exist with Maine's medical marijuana industry.  

A second organization, the Washington D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project is also planning a citizens' initiative to legalize marijuana in 2016.  Both groups say it's unclear if their proposals can be merged but they are willing to try to work together.

Scott Gagnon, of the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, says his group doesn't oppose legalization on moral grounds, but out of health concerns and the potential for increased access to marijuana by kids.  And he says a recent vote to defeat a legalization effort in Lewiston illustrates how much concern there is about the legalization idea. He says the potential for two competing legalization efforts, even one that's homegrown, probably benefits opponents.

"I think, at the end of the day, the people that are concerned about legalization - I don't think this really changes anything," Gagnon says. "I think right now it's probably really close, maybe it's a toss-up, maybe there's a little more on the side.  I don't know that those people are going to be changed by this.  I think, in this case, these two initiatives are fighting for the other side."

A spokesperson for the Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association says her group is still evaluating the Legalize Maine proposal, and is not yet prepared to take a position on it.