(NECN: Marnie MacLean, Portland, Maine) - A Maine lawmaker wants to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington and make marijuana legal for all adults.
Right now, people in Maine can smoke pot, with a doctor's permission. The state regulates the eight dispensaries that sell marijuana to people with a prescription.
A Portland lawmaker says public attitude towards marijuana is shifting. She's proposed a bill to make it legal for anyone 21 and older to use pot. Diane Russell spoke before the legislature's Criminal Justice committee on Friday and said, "whether you like legalization or you don't, this issue is coming to our state and I believe we have a responsibility to get ahead of the issue."
The bill would tax and regulate marijuana. Adults would be allowed to grow six plants and possess two and a half ounces of marijuana. The bill also calls for a heavy excise tax of $50 per ounce.
The bill has 35 co-sponsors and supporters from several groups, including the ACLU of Maine which says it's time to decriminalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol.
Law enforcement in Maine is firmly against the measure. All 16 sheriff's say it's a bad idea for a host of reasons, including the fact that federal law calls marijuana possession a crime.
Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry says, "It would put law enforcement in a situation where we're in conflict with federal law versus state law, not a good place to be."
If the legislature passes the bill and the governor approves it, the measure will then go to voters as a referendum question on the November ballot.