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Bill to tax, regulate marijuana focus of kickoff event

At noon on Thursday, advocates and lawmakers will hold a press conference to kick off a campaign behind a bill aimed at taxing and regulating marijuana in the same manner as alcohol. The press conference is planned in the Welcome Center of the State House.
“An Act to Tax and Regulate Marijuana” will be promoted starting at 9 a.m., with the press conference at noon.
Those scheduled to attend include Democratic Portland Rep. Diane Russell; the bill’s legislative co-sponsor Rep. Aaron Libby, R-North Waterboro; Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine; David Boyer, political director at the Marijuana Policy Project; and Denny Gallaudet, a retired bank president and school superintendent.
“When it comes to keeping marijuana away from teens, keeping marijuana in an unregulated underground market is the worst possible policy,” said Russell, a Democrat who represents Portland’s Munjoy Hill neighborhood. “Instead, marijuana should be sold by legitimate, taxpaying businesses in a tightly regulated market.”
Maine already has a law permitting the use of medical marijuana. Russell has sought unsuccessfully to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Maine. In 2011, she co-sponsored a bill that sought to reform state marijuana laws by establishing a special tax rate for marijuana, legalizing the personal use and cultivation of marijuana and legalizing and licensing certain commercial marijuana-related activities. Russell reintroduced the bill last year, again without success.
The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, writes, “Ending marijuana prohibition in this country would mean billions in sales tax revenue alone, to say nothing of the multi-billion dollar industry it would spur and the jobs and revenue that would accompany it.”
Critics and policy makers — including members of the Obama administration — say marijuana constitutes a health and social problem.
“Marijuana and other illicit drugs are addictive and unsafe especially for use by young people,” writes the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House (http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/marijuana), saying  “marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects.”

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