Dill: Decriminalize pot to save $13.7B now (May 23, 2012)

Top progressive in Senate race favors decriminalization at federal level

AUGUSTA — State Sen. Cynthia Dill, the leading progressive in the race to succeed Olympia Snowe in the U.S. Senate, said today she supports federal decriminalization of marijuana for personal recreational and medicinal uses.

“I believe it should be decriminalized, but tightly regulated,” said Dill, who voted to affirm Maine’s medical marijuana law and bolster privacy protections for medical marijuana users as state senator.

Dill, who has said she will base her decisions as a U.S. senator on science and facts, pointed to the high cost of jailing nonviolent marijuana users, and to a lack of evidence the drug is harmful or a “gateway” to substance abuse, as reasons for supporting decriminalization.

“I believe the prohibition of marijuana is filling our prisons, and fueling cartels and crime in other parts of the world.

 I also think the evidence shows marijuana is not as addictive as cigarettes or alcohol, has medicinal benefits and is not a gateway drug,” she said. 

“It’s a prohibition we can’t afford.”

Decriminalization measures typically allow a person to possess a certain amount of marijuana before facing prosecution, and emphasizes prosecution of trafficking over simple possession.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws estimated revenue from Maine’s clandestine marijuana industry in 1997 at more than $129 million. Potatoes brought in $120 million that year. Meanwhile, the U.S. is spending $13.7 billion per year enforcing prohibition, according to a 2010 Harvard University study.

“With the highest rate of incarceration for adult males in the world, prosecuting nonviolent marijuana users is a prohibition we can’t, and don’t have to, afford,” Dill said.

A Gallup poll released last week shows a record-high 50 percent of Americans favor full legalization of marijuana, up from 46 percent last year. Gallup said support for legalization was only 12 percent in 1969, the first time it asked the question.

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