Legal weed is still safe in Maine, despite a veto last Friday over the state’s latest version of a cannabis legalization bill. When it will go on sale, however, is a more complicated matter.
Gov. Paul LePage vetoed LD 1650, a replace-and-repeal bill that would have scrapped the public ballot measure for adult-use cannabis in Maine — Question 1 — in favor of a new bill crafted by legislators and business lobbyists. LePage’s office released a statement on Friday explaining several reasons for the veto, but all of his justifications boiled down to stalling for more time to “do it right.”
Paul T. McCarrier is the founder of the grassroots organization Legalize Maine. He also co-authored Question 1, building upon legalization bills from other states, but tailoring Question 1 to favor Maine’s local business and taxation interests, rather than those of out-of-state operators. That’s because Question 1 prioritizes business licensing for current registrants in Maine’s medical marijuana program. During a phone interview with MERRY JANE, McCarrier said Legalize Maine actually supports LePage’s veto.
LD 1650 “does something that’s the opposite, in many ways, of what the voters approved,” says McCarrier. For eight months, a special state-appointed committee revised Question 1’s regulations to such an extent that the committee proposed an entirely new legalization bill.
“There was very little public input,” for LD 1650, says McCarrier. “There was mostly input from lobbyists and the chairs of the committee.”
McCarrier’s position diverges from David Boyer’s, another legalization proponent in Maine who campaigned for Question 1 alongside McCarrier last year.
“We call on the legislature to override this ill-advised veto,” wrote Boyer, a former Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, to MERRY JANE. “Seven other states have passed legalization initiatives over the past five years, and none has seen this type of obstructionism from its Governor.”
One of the most contentious points in LD 1650 was the so-called “opt-in” provision. Question 1 originally contained an “opt-out” section, just like other states’ legalization bills, meaning municipalities can vote not to allow legal cannabis sales within their jurisdictions, which gives communities greater control over local pot shop regulations. However, LD 1650 replaced Question 1’s opt-out provision with an opt-in clause, essentially forcing all towns and districts to vote — again — to permit adult-use sales in their neighborhoods.
McCarrier called the opt-in requirement “de facto prohibition.” He also noted other disagreements with LD 1650, including proposed tax rates and new residency requirements for canna-business licensure.
The opt-in issue was also highlighted by Matthew T. Dubois, a cannabis attorney based in Bangor. He says unless the Maine legislature overrides Gov. Lepage’s veto of LD 1650 by a two-thirds majority, Question 1 – and its opt-out provision – remains in effect.
“What was passed last November was the citizens’ initiative,” explains Dubois. Question 1 “was, and is, currently the law.”
Maine lawmakers are set to vote tonight on whether to overturn the governor’s veto of LD 1650. If they don’t, Maine will go back to the drawing board to make rules for legal cannabis sales, eventually.
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