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Maine Legislators Pass Bill to Regulate Legal Weed, But a Gubernatorial Veto Is Expected

State lawmakers shot down an extended retail sales moratorium pushed by Gov. LePage, but weren’t able to carry a veto-proof majority on the regulation-focused committee bill.

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Lead photo via Gage Skidmore

Maine legislators passed a long-anticipated committee bill aimed at regulating the state’s impending legal weed industry yesterday, but even with success in both the Maine House and Senate, the agreed upon tax structures, licensing, and limitation rules are expected to be vetoed by Governor Paul LePage, a staunch prohibitionist.

According to the Portland Press Herald, neither the 84-52 vote in the House or the 22-9 vote in the Senate hit the 75% approval mark needed to block a gubernatorial veto.

State lawmakers were at odds with Gov. LePage’s agenda throughout the entire special legislative session Monday night, with an earlier House vote shooting down a separate proposal pushed by the Governor and State Sen. Ken Fredette that would have extended Maine’s moratorium on recreational cannabis sales for another year, until at least January 2019.

Instead, the now-passed regulatory legislation will head to Gov. LePage’s desk, where he will have 10 days to either sign the bill into law, veto it, or allow it to pass without his signature.

“This was not a vote for or against recreational marijuana use. Maine voters decided that already,” Rep. Teresa Pierce, the Democratic co-chair of the committee that wrote the bill, told the Press Herald. “This was our chance to do our job and protect the people of Maine as we follow the law and create this new industry. I’m proud that we’ve done that.”

Still, representatives from both parties told the Portland newspaper that they expected Gov. LePage to veto the bill.

And while some legislators and cannabis advocates have been vocal about issues concerning the committee bill’s proposed regulations, Gov. LePage’s objections do not pertain to specific clauses or protocols, but the timely implementation of legal weed in general, a goal that is frustrating lawmakers to no end.  

“We need to start someplace,” Republican Representative Don Marean told the Press Herald. “I do not want to go home and tell constituents that I voted against regulating marijuana, which is a federally scheduled drug. This vote was not to legalize marijuana. This vote is to regulate it.”

If Gov. LePage does veto the committee bill, legislators will reconvene on the issue in January, to either pass a new set of regulations, enact regulations as voters approved them in 2016, or extend the existing moratorium on recreational sales and delay the industry even further.

“With today’s vote, the Legislature clearly does not have enough votes to move this bill forward over a governor’s veto,” Rep. Fredette said. “There is obviously more work to be done when we return in January.”

A current legal weed sales moratorium is in effect until February 2018.

Follow Zach Harris on Twitter