AUGUSTA, Maine — The face of a bill that would clear the way for legalizing recreational marijuana in Maine could change drastically Tuesday at the hands of a Republican-led amendment at the committee level.
Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, said he will present an amendment to LD 1229, An Act to Regulate and Tax Marijuana, on Tuesday afternoon when the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee holds a work session on the bill, which could culminate with a recommendation from the committee to the full Legislature.
Wilson serves on the committee. His amendment would direct the commissioner of administrative and financial services to collect bids through a competitive process for the intent of awarding up to 10 contracts statewide for the cultivation of marijuana. Any marijuana production not sanctioned through a contract with the department would remain illegal, which would be a change from Portland Democratic Rep. Diane Russell’s original bill.
Russell’s proposal would allow the cultivation of as many as six plants under certain restrictions. Wilson’s amendment also would direct the commissioner to collect bids for a single statewide distribution service.
But Wilson said the crux of his amendment involves where the revenues from a $50-per-ounce excise tax and 7 percent retail sales tax would flow. He proposes that 25 percent of the revenue would be used for substance abuse prevention and education programs and another 25 percent be used to support enforcement of drug laws. The rest of the revenue would go to the General Fund, which supports the majority of state government.
Russell, whose bill includes the same $50-per-ounce excise tax on wholesale sales and a 5 percent retail sales tax, has estimated that taxing and regulating marijuana could generate up to $13 million a year, three-quarters of which she proposes routing into the state’s General Fund. The rest of the revenue, under Russell’s proposal, would pay for implementation of the law, substance abuse treatment and prevention programs, and research on the effects of marijuana.
Wilson said despite his amendment, his support for legalizing marijuana is lukewarm at best.
“I believe we have an obligation to fight substance abuse,” Wilson said Tuesday morning. “This proposal will allow for millions of dollars to support that effort and that’s the only reason I will consider supporting this.”
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