Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Maine Gov vetoes bill designed to establish structure for voter-approved recreational marijuana industry

Images (2)As reported in this NBC News piece, "Maine Gov. Paul Lepage’s decision to veto a bill on Friday that would have built a recreational marijuana retail market is a major buzzkill for those in the state who voted to legalize the drug last year." Here is more on the decision and its impact:

In his veto letter, LePage urged the Maine legislature to “sustain this veto” because he did not believe that the bill was satisfactory.  The bill passed with enough votes to overturn a veto in the state Senate, but not the statehouse.

LePage said his greatest grievance is that he did not know how the Trump administration intended to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that legalized recreational marijuana.  “If we are adopting a law that will legalize and establish a new industry and impose a new regulatory infrastructure that requires significant private and public investment, we need assurances that a change in policy or administration at the federal level will not nullify those investments,” LePage wrote....

In his letter, LePage also expanded on his grievance that the bill conflicted with Maine’s existing medical marijuana laws, which he claims are being exploited by his constituents, and created “unrealistic deadlines” to craft regulation at the executive level....

In the letter, LePage said that he “sought guidance” from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who has had to oversee his state’s recreational marijuana market since Colorado legalized the drug in 2012.  LePage said that Hickenlooper “urged” him to “not rush just to get something in place” and connected Colorado’s crime rates and traffic deaths to recreational marijuana use.

The full statement by Gov LePage is available at this link, and here are its concluding paragraphs:

When I sought guidance from my counterpart in Colorado, he was adamant that Maine should learn from the mistakes made by his state and others that have pursued legalization efforts.  He urged that we take the time necessary to get our law right from the start and not rush just to get something in place.  There have been serious negative effects of legalization in other states — effects that should not be repeated in Maine.  In Colorado, marijuana-related traffic deaths more than doubled since recreational marijuana was legalized.  The Institute for Highway Safety reached similar findings, noting that automobile collisions increased by three percent in states that have legalized marijuana.  Alarmingly, the violent crime rate in Colorado increased nearly 19 percent since legalization, more than double the national rate.  If Maine is going to legalize and regulate marijuana, it is imperative that we do it right.

Outside specific concerns about this bill, I continue to be concerned about expanded legalization of marijuana in Maine.  The dangers of legalizing marijuana and normalizing its use in our society cannot be understated.  Maine is now battling a horrific drug epidemic that claims more than one life a day due to overdoses caused by deadly opiates.  Sending a message, especially to our young people, that some drugs that are still illegal under federal law are now sanctioned by the state may have unintended and grave consequences.

For these reasons, I return LD 1650 unsigned and vetoed. I strongly urge the Legislature to sustain it and continue to work to get this important law right.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2017/11/maine-gov-vetoes-bill-designed-to-establish-structure-for-voter-approved-recreational-marijuana-indu.html

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