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Lawmakers override LePage's veto of legal marijuana rules

BY Staff

5/3/2018
Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Maine lawmakers decisively voted Wednesday to override Gov. Paul LePage's veto of a bill that establishes regulations for the legal marijuana market.

Maine lawmakers voted decisively Wednesday to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that establishes regulations for the legal marijuana market, with the House voting l09-39 and the Senate voting 28-6 to approve the measure.
LD 1719, An Act To Implement a Regulatory Structure for Adult Use Marijuana, creates the rules for licensing and regulating marijuana producers, processors, and retail establishments and sets the tax rates for adult-use marijuana. The bill does not implement the portion of the citizens’ initiative narrowly approved by voters in November 2016 that calls for social consumption lounges.
“After a long and unnecessary delay, the decision by Maine voters to regulate marijuana for adults will finally be respected,” Matthew Schweich, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project and campaign director for the 2016 Maine legalization ballot initiative campaign, said in a news release. “While this bill is imperfect, its overall effect is implementation of the legalization policy that Maine voters approved at the ballot box a year-and-a-half ago.”
In approving Question 1 in 2016, Maine was one of four states to pass ballot measures to make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol. California and Nevada have already implemented their programs, and retail sales should begin next month in Massachusetts.
Marijuana is legal for adults in nine states and the District of Columbia, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. More than 20 states are considering bills to legalize marijuana this year.
The Bangor Daily News reported that the approved bill, sponsored by Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth, will set an effective tax rate of 20% on marijuana products, give Mainers priority for commercial licenses and set health and safety standards for the market, which won’t open before LePage leaves office in early 2019.

Scott Gagnon, spokesperson for Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine, a project of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action, issued the following statement after Wednesday’s successful override veto votes:
"While we continue to be very much opposed to marijuana legalization, we do appreciate the Maine Legislature acknowledging the extremely close vote on legalization and incorporating some of our key concerns into a much more conservative implementation bill,” he said in a statement sent to Mainebiz.
"We are pleased that the bill bans social clubs, limits the number of plants allowed to three, closes the gifting loophole, and allows towns to opt-in to marijuana sales (as opposed to opting out). However, there are troubling indicators that marijuana legalization is harming states across the country. As recently as this month, a report from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission found that marijuana-impaired driving fatalities more than doubled since the state legalized marijuana. These are issues the Legislature must address moving forward.
"SAM Maine will now take the fight to the towns and localities of our state, where two-thirds of towns voted against legalization and most of them will continue to be opposed. There are no major medical associations that support legalization of marijuana and we continue to stand with our broad coalition of health care professionals, prevention, treatment, law enforcement, teachers and families who know marijuana commercialization and normalization are wrong for Maine."