Republican Gov. Paul LePage on Friday vetoed legislation that sought to regulate the production and sales of cannabis to adults.
Members of the House and Senate approved the legislation late last month during a one-day special session, but did so without a veto-proof majority. Members of the Senate voted 22-9 in favor of the bill. Members of the House voted 81-50 in favor of the bill.
LePage said, “Until I clearly understand how the federal government intends to treat states that seek to legalize marijuana, I cannot in good conscience support any scheme in state law to implement expansion of legal marijuana in Maine.”
A majority of Maine voters decided last November in favor of a statewide initiative legalizing the adult use, retail production, and licensed sale of marijuana. Governor LePage lobbied against the measure and in January lawmakers passed emergency legislation delaying the enactment of many of its provisions until February 2018.
Since that time, the Governor has refused to work with lawmakers with regard to how to regulate marijuana sales and other provisions of the law. The Governor did endorse legislation that sought to delay any further implementation of the law until 2019, but lawmakers defeated that measure.
The Governor’s veto, if not overridden by lawmakers, will further delay the ability of legislators to regulate the commercial cannabis market in a manner that comports with the voters’ mandate.
NORML Political Director Justin Strekal called the Governor’s actions “disappointing but hardly surprising.”
He said: “A majority of Maine voters decided in favor of regulating adult marijuana use and strong majorities of both the House and Senate approved legislation to implement this mandate. It is unwise for the Governor to stand in the way of this progress.”
He added: “It makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective for Gov. LePage to try to put this genie back in the bottle. It is time that he look to the future rather than to the past, and take appropriate actions to comport Maine’s marijuana laws and regulations with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri went further: “Governor LePage’s veto is just the latest in a line of anti-democratic attacks coming from his office and his stonewalling will only ensure the prolonged existence of a criminal black market in Maine and deny the state coffers of needed tax revenue. Maine should be looking at ways to expeditiously implement a robust legalization program that represents what state voters approved at the ballot box.”
Presently, adults may legally possess, consume, and cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis, but no regulations exist governing its retail production or sale.