- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 4, 2017

Maine’s Republican governor has vetoed a bill regulating retail marijuana sales, throwing a wrench in the state’s plans to start selling recreational weed in 2018.

Gov. Paul LePage rejected the bill on Friday, November 3, casting doubts over whether Maine will join a growing list anytime soon of states where adults can legally purchase marijuana from licensed dispensaries.

Maine residents voted in Nov. 2016 to legalize cannabis, paving the way for state lawmakers to draft a bill during special committee last month establishing a system for licensing, taxing and tracking marijuana sales.

The bill passed 22-9 in the state Senate and 81-50 in the state House during last month’s vote, opening the door for Mr. LePage to either sign it into law, let it take effect without his signature or veto it by late Friday evening.

In a statement Friday, the governor said he was vetoing the bill because it conflicts with federal law, clashes with Maine’s existing medical marijuana program and sets up “unrealistic timelines,” among other factors.

“When the referendum seeking to legalize marijuana passed, it put me in a difficult position: to uphold Maine law, I would be required to flout federal law,” Mr. LePage said in a statement.

“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,” he added.

While the federal government has outlawed marijuana for decades, voters in eight states and the nation’s capital have legalized recreational weed in recent years beginning with Colorado in 2012, Maine included.

Maine began letting adults legally possess and grow marijuana on February 1 as a result of last year’s vote, but lawmakers said retail weed sales couldn’t start until early 2018. By rejecting the bill passed in special committee, however, the governor has effectively killed the odds of marijuana sales starting next February as expected, assuming the legislature doesn’t override his veto when its members convene Monday, Nov. 6.

“I strongly urge the Legislature to sustain this veto and continue to work to get this important law right,” Mr. LePage said in a statement.

Maine still stands to legalize retail marijuana sales in Feb. 2018 if lawmakers override the governor’s veto Monday by a two-thirds vote, but faces an uphill battle given the results of last month’s special committee vote.

Nationwide, 64 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, according to the results of a Gallup poll released last month — the highest level of public support ever recorded.

Five states currently have systems in place for adults to purchase recreational marijuana from licensed dispensaries, including Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada and Washington State. Massachusetts and California is slated to follow suit in 2018.

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