Marijuana in Maine

Last year, voters in Colorado and Washington legalized the recreational use of pot. Will Maine be the next state to follow suit?

By Jeff Clark

When state representative Diane Russell first decided to introduce a bill last year legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Maine, she feared the reaction from only one quarter — her parents. “My mother is a nurse with a PhD, and she was instrumental in writing a lot of the anti-tobacco laws back in the 1990s,” Russell explains. “I figured she’d worry about secondhand smoke and the effects of smoking it. And my dad’s a truck driver! I thought I knew what he’d say.”

Instead, her parents were cool about it. “My mother said, ‘I don’t think prohibition works.’ My dad’s only comment was, ‘Tax the hell out of it!’ ”

Those two attitudes pretty much sum up a good deal of the reaction to Russell’s effort to legalize marijuana in Maine. From college students to local police chiefs, Russell has encountered little outright opposition to the idea and a good deal of private support.

“One of the big lawyers who lives in my district [Russell represents the Munjoy Hill area of Portland] pulled me aside at the local coffee shop one morning and thanked me for introducing the bill,” she recalls. “I had another person who sells it tell me he wants it legal so he doesn’t have to worry about the IRS anymore. He wants to be able to report that income legally. He’s more scared of the IRS than he is of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).”

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