POST CATEGORY: National, Northwest

6 more states hoping to legalize recreational use

February 04, 2013 | NORTHWEST LEAF

Proposed initiatives mimic washington's I-502; allow possession of up to an ounce for those over 21

Six states this month are hoping to move forward with legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Hawaii, Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Missouri and Vermont are the latest states wishing to join Washington and Colorado with their progressive takes on marijuana. Many of the states already have medicinal marijuana programs.

In Hawaii, House Bill 150 would legalize possession for those older than 21 for up to 1 ounce of Cannabis for recreational use. The bill would allow for cultivation and manufacturing centers, and the licensing of retail outlets - an unknown territory our own state is exploring under Initiative 502.

A poll released last month from the ACLU of Hawaii found nearly 60 percent of Hawaiians supported taxing and regulating marijuana, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

In Maine, Democratic Rep. Dianne Russell introduced a bill that would also legalize and tax marijuana. "Why can't we be bringing this market to the white market, out of the black market, and out of the hands of the drug dealers?" Russell told the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald. Russell said legalizing marijuana would raise revenue for higher education, law enforcement and a dwindling general budget.

sixstates2.jpgOf course, Rhode Island legalized medicinal use of marijuana in 2006, but after more than six years, not a single dispensary has opened up, the Boston Globe reported. Legislators have been entangled in endless debate.

In Missouri, a statewide group called Show-Me Cannabis Regulation is inching closer to getting their referendum to legalize marijuana for people older than 21 on the 2014 ballot. The group's spokesman, John Payne, told a Missouri TV debate audience that marijuana has tremendous medicinal properties, but they didn't want to rely on a medicinal approach in pitching the referendum to voters.

"Yes, when people use it recreationally, that's not always the best thing for them. But, as adults, they should have the freedom to make their own choices."

Payne says he believes stricter regulations have done nothing to curtail the use of marijuana in this country, which has shown an increasing appetite for the substance. He said it is remarkable that teen use of cigarettes, a controlled and legalized substance, continues to fall, while marijuana use is on the rise.

"We've been trying the same policy for 75 years," he said. "It has not controlled the use of marijuana in any way."

 In Vermont, new decriminalization legislation would allow for possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, with civil fines capped at $100 per incident for underage marijuana smokers. A fifth incident would allow for a $500 fine.

Last month in Pennsylvania, Democratic state Sen. Daylin Leach introduced legislated that would legalize marijuana for those older than 21, regulating it "like alcohol," while adding in fines for public intoxication, selling marijuana to minors and driving under the influence.

"Like alcohol, legalization and regulation will make marijuana safer," Leach told the CBS station in Pittsburgh. "People will no longer have to buy it on the streets from criminals who may have laced their product with other dangerous drugs. People buying legally will know exactly what they are getting and be able to rely on the safety of what they are purchasing."

Leach's news release notes that about 25,000 people are arrested for marijuana possession alone in Pennsylvania annually, at a cost of more than $325 million. The number of arrests nationwide is close to 200,000 annually, according to NORML.

Remarked Leach, "This horrific policy must end. People around the nation are realizing that. And it is a moral imperative that Pennsylvania wake up and end prohibition now."

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