The Maine Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety will hold a hearing Friday, tomorrow at 10 a.m. on a bill that would make possession of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. State lawmakers, including the bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland), will join local advocates at a pre-hearing news conference in the State House Welcome Center at 9:20 a.m.

In a press release announcing the hearing, David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project said, "A majority of Americans are ready to move beyond marijuana prohibition, and this bill presents our legislature with a golden opportunity to take the initiative to develop a sensible new approach. "I hope members of the legislature will keep in mind our state motto, 'Dirigio' or 'I lead,' when hearing testimony and casting their votes on this bill.

A group of legislators will join the bill's advocates at the hearing.

"Marijuana is objectively far less harmful than alcohol for the consumer and for society," Boyer said. "People are fed up with laws that punish adults for making the safer choice."

This week four of Maine's sheriffs joined together with some community health care providers to oppose the marijuana bill that was submitted.  Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty, president of the Maine Sheriffs Association, said Tuesday that legalizing marijuana would damage communities. Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said marijuana use has negative effects on a developing brain. Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant and Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett joined them.