In so doing, the Governor spinelessly passed the buck. Apparently, the timid LePage feels that he and the people of Maine don’t really run the state. He appears to have ceded control of cannabis policy to the feds. (Hey Gov, here’s a hit from the clue bong: That isn’t going to go over well with the liberty-minded people of Maine.)
“The Obama Administration said they would not enforce federal law related to marijuana; however, the Trump administration has not taken that position.
“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.” ~ Gov. Paul LePage
“There have been serious negative effects of legalization in other states,” Gov. LePage lied, “effects that should not be repeated in Maine.”
The Governor also said the bill fails to align with Maine’s existing medical marijuana law, since patients would be taxed less on medical cannabis, reports Christopher Cousins at the Bangor Daily News.
LePage, a big and vocal supporter of Donald Trump, has said that Trump could fix the U.S. if he would only “show some authoritarian power,” reports Christopher Brennan at the New York Daily News.
No Veto-Proof Majority
Members of the Maine House and Senate late last month approved the legislation, LD 1650, during a one-day special session. But it passed without a veto-proof majority. The Senate approved the bill 22-9, and the House approved it 81-50.
If the Senate’s numbers were sustained on Monday, the Senate would have the necessary two-thirds majority to override LePage’s veto in that chamber, reports Penelope Overton at the Portland Press Herald. But the House vote, if duplicated on Monday, wouldn’t be enough to override.
House leaders won’t even known how many “No” votes they need to flip until they see how many lawmakers actually show up for the override vote on Monday. Leaders of the select committee that wrote the bill have spent the last week trying to convince “No” voters to flip. Advocacy groups have asked constituents in those districts to call their lawmakers.
Just Stay Home?
In some Republican circles, lawmakers are being asked to just stay home on Monday, which would help the override effort without openly opposing Gov. LePage or House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport).
LePage and Minority Leader Fredette introduced a bill Oct. 23 to extend the existing moratorium on marijuana sales until 2019, but it failed in the House. That idea will be reconsidered by some on Monday afternoon, when the Legislature is scheduled to convene to consider the veto.
A majority of Maine voters decided last November in favor of a statewide initiative legalizing the adult use, retail production, and licensed sale of cannabis. Governor LePage actively lobbied against the measure.
Black Market Dealers Love This
In January, lawmakers passed emergency legislation delaying enactment of many of the provisions of legalization until February 2018. Since then, Gov. LePage has simply refused to work with lawmakers on regulating cannabis sales, and any other provisions of the law.
LePage’s veto — if not overridden by lawmakers — will further delay the ability of the Legislature to regulate the commercial cannabis market in a manner in accordance with the voters’ wishes. Bill supporters called the veto an ill-advised move that would benefit the black market.
Black market dealers will continue to operate unopposed by any legal channels if the Governor’s veto holds. In the implementation bill, recreational marijuana would have been levied a 10 percent sales tax and a 10 percent excise tax. Along with the taxes would come more than 80 pages of rules on how cannabis could be grown, processed, packaged, advertised and sold.
The state chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project noted that Gov. LePage had claimed he could support legalization if approved by a referendum during a public debate leading up to the 2014 gubernatorial election.
The group said that Gov. LePage ignored the will of the people in failing to uphold that commitment. Other anti-cannabis governors have still respected the will of the people, said MPP director David Boyer. “Seven other states have passed legalization initiatives over the past five years, and none has seen this type of obstructionism from its governor,” Boyer said.
“Gov. LePage has made a mistake by vetoing this legislation. Instead of a regulated and controlled system of marijuana cultivation and sales, Maine will continue to support the unregulated market. In 2014, the governor said he would implement a legalization law if approved by voters, but he has failed to uphold that commitment.” ~ David Boyer, MPP
‘Unprecedented Level of Gubernatorial Interference’
“It is very disappointing to see this unprecedented level of gubernatorial interference in Maine,” said Matthew Schweich, MPP director of state campaigns, who was campaign director for Maine’s 2016 Yes On 1 campaign.
“On Election Day 2016, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and California all approved ballot initiatives to make marijuana legal and regulated for adults. Of those four states, Maine has made the least amount of progress in implementing its legalization policy. As a result, Maine will forgo more tax revenue and allow the illicit market to continue to dominate marijuana sales.
“We are hopeful that the Maine Legislature will respect the outcome of the ballot initiative by overriding this veto. Doing so will be a victory for pragmatic and responsible policymaking in Maine.” ~ Matthew Schweich, MPP
‘Makes No Sense’
Gov. LePage’s actions are “disappointing but hardly surprising,” according to NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.
“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.
“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 opinionated the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.” ~ NORML Political Director Justin Strekal
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri was no happier with the veto.
“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.” ~ Erik Altieri, NORML
Adults in Maine can legally possess, consume, and cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis, but as a result of the Governor’s veto, there are no regulations governing its retail production or sale.
In the meantime, enterprising marijuana dealers in Maine have been exploiting the state’s lack of regulation and enforcement by giving away cannabis — but charging hefty delivery fees, reports Trevor Hughes at USA Today.