AUGUSTA, Maine – On Friday, Gov. Paul LePage followed through on threats to veto legislation that would have started the process of implementing a regulated marijuana market that Maine voters called for when they approved Question 1 in 2016. The bill, which was supported overwhelmingly in the House and Senate, would have created rules for cultivation, processing, and retail establishments, as well as set tax rates for adult-use marijuana and delay marijuana social consumption lounges until summer 2019, according to a press release.
LD 1650 was the product of nearly seven months of transparent deliberations in the legislature that included input from a variety of stakeholders and concerned residents. Gov. LePage and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) attempted to circumvent this legislation by introducing a bill to officially delay marijuana retail sales until 2019, but it was defeated in late October.
“Gov. LePage has made a mistake by vetoing this legislation," said David Boyer, MPP Maine political director and campaign manager for the 2016 Yes on 1 campaign. "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."
"We call on the legislature to override this ill-advised veto," Boyer continued. "The bipartisan compromise bill proposed by the legislature will allow Maine to establish the regulations necessary to implement the will of the people as expressed last November."
"In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker campaigned against the marijuana legalization initiative last year," he added. "However, he respected the outcome and moved forward with implementation of the law. It is unfortunate that Gov. LePage has not done the same. Seven other states have passed legalization initiatives over the past five years, and none have seen this type of obstructionism from their governors.”
Matthew Schweich, MPP director of state campaigns and campaign director for the 2016 Yes on 1 campaign, said, “It is very disappointing to see this unprecedented level of gubernatorial interference in Maine. The outcome of the referendum last year was clear: Mainers want marijuana legal, taxed and regulated for adults. With his veto of this bill, Gov. LePage has effectively chosen to veto the will of the people."
"On Election Day 2016, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and California all approved ballot initiatives to make marijuana legal and regulated for adults," he added. "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."
"The bipartisan implementation bill was drafted by a committee of legislators, some of whom actually opposed legalization last year," Schweich continued. "Supporters of this legislation are advocating against further delays so that regulations can be established to improve public health and safety by curtailing the unregulated market."
"We are hopeful that the Maine Legislature will respect the outcome of the ballot initiative by overriding this veto," he said. "Doing so will be a victory for pragmatic and responsible policymaking in Maine.”