Lawmakers in Maine have been working since early this year on legislation that would regulate the sale of cannabis after voters approved the legalization of possession, use and sale of the herb a year ago during the 2016 election. However, the state’s governor, Paul LePage, vetoed this bill – forcing lawmakers to reconvene for a vote yesterday with a decision required by midnight.
In vetoing the bill, Governor LePage cited his concerns over how the Trump Administration is going to handle the discrepancy between state and federal laws. This is something that many states – and the cannabis industry as a whole – have been concerned about since Jeff Sessions was first confirmed as the U.S. Attorney General earlier this year.
“Until I clearly understand how the federal government intends to treat states that seek to legalize marijuana, I cannot in good conscience support any scheme in state law to implement expansion of legal marijuana in Maine,” wrote Gov. LePage.
Unfortunately, to override the veto there needed to be a two-thirds majority vote in both the Senate and the House. In the original votes the Senate held that two-thirds, and it remained in Monday’s vote.
The House, on the other hand, did not pass the bill with the needed two-thirds majority either time, with Monday’s vote ending with 74 in favor and 62 against the bill – 17 votes short of overriding the Governor’s veto.
“We’ve legalized gasoline, but not gas stations here,” said Rep. Martin Grohman, I-Biddeford, before the failed override vote. “If we don’t act and move we’re going to continue to create profits and incentives for the wrong people.”
The bill would have set a 10 percent sales tax, as well as an excise tax on the sale of cannabis. It also would have created a licensing system for those hoping to open legal businesses within the voter-approved cannabis industry.
There was already a moratorium set on the recreational sales of cannabis, which is going to expire on February 1st, 2018. At this point lawmakers will need to informally discuss a new bill, and prepare to pass something quick next year to meet this deadline. However, there is always the chance that lawmakers will simply extend the moratorium to buy themselves more time to work on a new bill.
If things haven’t changed or become clearer when it comes to how the Trump Administration plans to handle the newly legalized cannabis industry spreading across the U.S., LePage may veto the next bill to come across his desk with the intention of implementing legal sales of cannabis.