LePage Vetoes Compromise Marijuana Bill

Nov 6, 2017

Maine Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a measure aimed at regulating the retail sale of marijuana in the state.

The bill was crafted by a 17-member bipartisan commission over a period of nine months, but failed to win the support of LePage, a vocal opponent of legalized marijuana. The governor cited several reasons for his decision to issue a veto.

One is the fact that marijuana is still outlawed at the federal level.

“The federal government has not said, the Trump administration has not said they won’t enforce federal law. The Obama administration did, so if I sign that bill, I am violating my oath of office, and I can’t do that so I am vetoing on that grounds,” he says.

LePage says he’s also disturbed about recent reports from other states that have implemented retail sale of marijuana.

“Statistics that have come out of Colorado and Washington state on the increased deaths on highways and increased crimes relative to drugs,” he says.

The governor also told Maine Pubic Radio that as the state implements rules for the retail marketplace, it also needs to change its medical marijuana laws.

“Since November of last year we have gone from 900 caregivers to over 4,000, which means that nobody is going to be going to recreational, they are all moving over to medical so they don’t get the taxation, so until they fix that, I can’t support it,” he says.

“Disappointed, obviously,” says Democratic state Rep. Theresa Pierce of Falmouth, who co-chaired the committee, responding to news of the veto on Maine Public Radio’s Maine Calling program. “I think that we put together a strong committee that worked in a bipartisan manner to come up with a comprehensive, thoughtful bill that protects public health, protects our kids and our communities.”

Committee co-chair Roger Katz, a Republican senator from Augusta, criticized LePage for refusing to participate in the committee process and raising his objections after the fact. Katz also challenged the governor’s claims that the federal government might step in and enforce federal marijuana laws in the state.

“The federal government has decided to take a hands-off attitude toward it as long as the states are very careful in making sure that it is not improperly diverted,” he says.

And Katz says he is optimistic there will be the two-thirds vote of those present and voting to override the veto. But House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport believes fellow House Republicans will support the governor. He says 53 members voted against the bill, and if they all show up Monday, the veto will be sustained.

Fredette says he hopes that when the Legislature returns next year, it will extend the moratorium on pot sales that expires in February.

“And whether the other parties like it or not we are going to have to extend that moratorium to continue to figure out the implementation of this law,” he says.

Lawmakers reconvene on Monday. Meanwhile, supporters of the bill are actively lobbying Republican colleagues for enough votes to overturn the veto.

This story was originally published Nov. 3, 2017 at 1:10 p.m. ET.