Maine panel hears case for marijuana legalization

With other states starting to allow the legal use of marijuana, Maine needs to get ahead of the issue and legalize, regulate, and tax the sale of the drug, lawmakers were told Friday. ‘‘This issue is coming to our state,’’ Representative Diane Russell, a Portland Democrat, told the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee as it took up the bill she sponsored. It has 35 cosponsors in the 186-member Legislature. Russell pointed to two other states, Colorado and Washington, where residents voted to allow recreational use of marijuana by adults. Russell’s bill would legalize, tax, and regulate the sale of marijuana for personal consumption by people over 21. Adults could possess up to 2½ ounces legally, and grow up to six plants for personal consumption. The bill establishes a tax rate of $50 per ounce for marijuana sold by licensed marijuana cultivation facilities that would generate $13 million in revenue for the state, supporters say.