Portland Rep. Diane Russell was literally throwing up her hands Thursday at the news that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has told governors in Washington and Colorado that the Department of Justice will allow them to become the first two states to allow recreational use of marijuana.
Russell, a Democrat who tried and failed to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine with a bill she sponsored in the Legislature earlier this year, would seem to be one of the last people to complain about a relaxed federal stance on pot. But she said Holder’s announcement on Thursday would have made her plight easier if had happened months ago, before her bill died in May. A constant argument against Russell’s proposal was that any state that legalizes pot would remain in violation of federal law.
“It would have passed” with the federal law against it, said Russell in the back of the House chamber during Thursday’s special legislative session. “Maine had an opportunity to get ahead of other states and capitalize on a significant amount of tax revenue.”
David Boyer, Maine’s political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, has said his group intends to collect enough signatures to put the question to voters by November 2016, though Russell said that could breed problems.
“I still think states’ best way to do it so have the Legislature handle the issue,” she said. “It’s the best way to do it.”