Pot laws: Going green

5:01 PM, Nov 8, 2013   |    comments
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(NBC NEWS) -- At polls around the country on Tuesday, victories for marijuana proponents that some believe may indicate a turning point for legalization backers.

From Michigan to Maine voters passed ballot measures that will help decriminalize and regulate taxes on the drug.

In Portland, Maine, pot proponents celebrate Tuesday's vote to legalize adult possession of marijuana.

It was one of several victories at the polls this week for legalization supporters.

But in Portland, like in most cities, it will still be illegal to sell the drug or smoke it publicly.

"What I'm concerned about is now we're telling drug dealers essentially that its legal to possess marijuana in private residences but we don't tell people how they are going to purchase marijuana so are we telling dealers this is a location that is ripe for business," said Michael Sauschuck, the Chief of Police in Portland, Maine.

Voters in 3 Michigan cities, including Lansing, also approved marijuana decriminalization.

"This was a symbolic change," admitted Lansing Police Captain Daryl Green.

Symbolic he says because state and federal laws still make pot illegal.

But changing local laws is a clear movement toward changes within state legislatures.

A dangerous movement according to Kevin Sabet, author and lobbyist for Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

"The issue is we are on the brink of creating the big tobacco of our time which would be called big marijuana," said Sabet. "It's really about ushering in a new industry that will frankly profit off of other peoples addiction and every incentive to increase dangerous use an addiction among kids,"

In Colorado, the only state besides Washington, that's legalized marijuana statewide, voters on Tuesday passed hefty taxes on recreational pot.

Lawmakers from both parties and the governor supported the 25% tax, to pay for regulating marijuana shops and school construction.

"They're tired of shoveling billions of dollars down a bottomless hole trying to enforce a policy that can't be enforced and would instead prefer to see marijuana taxed and regulated and instead be making billions of dollars that can be put towards health care, education and other worthwhile pursuits," said Dan Riffle, Director of Federal Policies Marijuana Policy Project.

Still in question is whether pot smokers will continue buying on the black market to avoid taxes.

"Most people think those consumers would rather go to a legitimate licensed business where they can get a regulated product that is tested," Riffle said.

It's all an ongoing effort to legalize marijuana that began years ago in states like Washington

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