“Deciding to use the DEA to police something that is already legal will guarantee more people in jail”
Funding for the hiring of four new Maine Drug Enforcement agents to form a so-called “cannabis crime unit” has been pulled after objections from lawmakers and the public.
Although supporters of the proposed unit contend that it is necessary to ensure the success of the adult-use cannabis market that is poised to kick off in the state as soon as this year, the legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee deemed the move to be unnecessary, News Center Maine reports.
Critics of the proposal say that imposing too many regulations or enforcing a crackdown on cannabis-related infractions sends mixed messages in a state where the drug is newly legal for adult use. And as the state attempts to bring the medical and adult-use cannabis markets under the same umbrella of rules, medical users warn that the potential over-regulation of the medical market could harm patients and potentially impede access to their prescribed medication.
Members of the legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee, spearheaded by Rep. Charlotte Warren, rebuffed the state’s request to invest approximately U$650,000 in the four-person unit that was to be installed within the Maine Drug Enforcement Division.
“Deciding to use the DEA to police something that is already legal will guarantee one thing: more people in jail,” Warren said.
The decision comes in the wake of the revelation that the medical cannabis market generated about $111 million in revenue in 2019 from the state’s approximately 65,000 medical cannabis users.
The denial of funding, however, doesn’t mean that more law enforcement agents won’t be patrolling the state in the name of cannabis. The Maine legislature’s appropriations committee must still decide whether to foot the bill for additional DEA agents to monitor the cannabis industry in the coming weeks.
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Written by Emma Spears