Report: Maine could see $22 million boon with 15% marijuana tax

Good morning from Augusta, which could eventually see a revenue boon if Mainers legalize marijuana, according to a Tax Foundation analysis released earlier this month.

It took a court fight with Maine’s secretary of state, but the legalization question will be on the ballot in 2016. It would allow people to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana and give the state power to regulate cultivation facilities and retail stores, placing a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana products.

The Tax Foundation didn’t exactly analyze that proposal. Instead, it used demand in Colorado and Washington to project the revenue states could gain if they placed taxes on new marijuana sales between 15 percent and 25 percent.

It found that Maine could haul in $22 million per year at the low mark and $37 million at the high mark. If you do the math, that’s a projected $148 million in annual sales for nearly $15 million in tax revenue at a 10 percent rate. This is back-of-the-envelope math, but it’s as close as we’ve gotten to a likely estimate on tax revenue so far.

The Legislature’s budget-writing committee estimated $8.8 million in revenue in the first full year, but that would certainly grow and the Legislature could increase tax rates going forward. However, it’s only part of a much more complicated debate. — Michael Shepherd

Pingree calls on DoD to end improper military discharges

A report released Thursday by Human Rights Watch dinged the U.S. Department of Defense for its response to veterans who reported military sexual assault and were improperly discharged from service.

It concluded that while many recent policy changes have been made to improve the military’s response to sexual assault, little has been done to help thousands of victims in older cases.

Many of them were given less than honorable discharges that could have been brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse or other factors resulting from attacks. That status can strip veterans of most benefits of service.

One of the faces of this issue has been Ruth Moore of Milbridge, who was sexually assaulted at 18 by her Navy supervisor. She reported the attack, but he was never punished. She was misdiagnosed with a “personality disorder and discharged, and it took 23 years to get disability benefits.

The office of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from the 1st District, said on Thursday she’ll write this week to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, urging him to reform procedures to expedite these older cases.

“The Department of Defense should expedite cases of veterans who were wrongfully discharged it can do so on its own, but I will introduce legislation if necessary,” she said in a statement. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • The Human Rights Campaign will run digital ads against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District and six other House Republicans who voted against an LGBT-rights provision after indicating they’d vote for it, according to POLITICO.
  • The House voted 233-189 on Thursday to allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states where it’s legal, including Maine. The amendment to a defense budget was already passed by a Senate panel and will likely become law this year, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. Marijuana’s federally illegal status has created problems for veterans using it in accordance with state law. Poliquin and Pingree voted for it.
  • In another amendment vote, the House banned the display of Confederate flags over mass graves at VA cemeteries with yes votes from Poliquin and Pingree. In a statement, the Republican said, “We are all Americans, and we have one flag that we all honor.” — Michael Shepherd

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A last-minute push for the lobster roll

The Daily Brief gets results. But we need to do more to save Maine’s pride.

On Monday, Maine’s lobster roll was losing 2-1 to West Virginia’s pepperoni roll in Roll Call’s Taste of America bracket. But then my colleague Chris Cousins shared it here. As I write this, the lobster roll is down by just 46 votes. Today is the deadline.

It won’t be easy to win the entire challenge. A tough second-round matchup looms with the Philly Cheese Steak, the top vote-getter so far in the Northeast region.

But we must defeat this God-forsaken pepperoni roll, which is pretty much just a homemade Hot Pocket. — Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.