Maine governor vetoes bill to regulate sale of marijuana

Governor-LePage-Speaks
Maine Governor Paul LePage speaks at a news conference at the State House in Augusta, Maine. –Robert Bukaty / The Associated Press

Get Boston Globe's Political Happy Hour newsletter, your afternoon shot of politics, sent straight from the desk of Joshua Miller.

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine Governor Paul LePage on Friday vetoed a bill to regulate sales of marijuana, citing concerns including how the Trump administration is going to treat the federal-state conflict in law.

His veto sets up a showdown Monday when Maine lawmakers meet next week.

“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,” the Republican governor told lawmakers.

Friday was the last day for LePage to veto bills to regulate the sale of marijuana, which was legalized by a statewide referendum vote in 2016.

Advertisement

The bill that sets rules and taxes on the retail sale of marijuana passed with a veto-proof, two-thirds majority in the Senate, but not in the House.

The Maine Marijuana Project called on lawmakers to override the governor’s veto and allow marijuana sales, likely in 2019.

“Governor LePage has made a mistake by vetoing this legislation. Instead of a regulated and controlled system of marijuana cultivation and sales, Maine will continue to support the unregulated market,” said David Boyer, political director of the marijuana advocacy group.

Two weeks ago, the House and Senate approved a marijuana bill proposed by a bipartisan legislative panel. Members of the panel spent months rewriting the law to allow local communities to opt-in to recreational marijuana sales.

The bill also made other changes, including adding an excise tax to the existing 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana.

All along, LePage has been critical of marijuana use, calling it a gateway drug, but he said in 2014 that the choice should be left up to voters.

On Friday, LePage said the Trump administration has not said whether it’ll take the same position as the Obama administration, which chose not to enforce federal law related to marijuana. He said he needs assurances from the Trump administration before establishing a new industry and regulations.

Advertisement

He said he had other concerns, including the bill’s failure to address compatibility with the existing medical marijuana program, the bill’s regulatory structure, and its “unrealistic timelines.”

LePage urged lawmakers to go back to the drawing board and avoid rushing the process. “If Maine is going to legalize and regulate marijuana, it is imperative that we do it right, he said.