- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Maine lawmakers sent a bill regulating recreational marijuana sales to Republican Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday, a day after his office said he’d reject it.

The Maine state Senate gave their final approval Tuesday to a compromise bill establishing ground rules for the retail cannabis industry approved by voters in 2016, giving Mr. LePage either 10 days to sign it, veto or let it take effect without his signature.

Mr. LePage plans to veto the legislation, his press secretary said earlier this week, signaling the second time in six months the governor will have rejected a regulatory bill implementing retail sales in accordance with the voter-approved ballot referendum.

The bill passed last week in both the state House and Senate by veto-proof margins, however, giving it enough support at the moment to sustain Mr. LePage’s expected rejection.

“We worked very hard to create a bill that addressed the governor’s concerns, as well as those of our colleagues,” state Rep. Teresa Pierce, Falmouth Democrat, told The Portland Press Herald in response to Mr. LePage’s veto threat. “Our bill has received strong support in both houses. I hope the governor will reconsider, but if he vetoes it, I’d hope that we can still count on their votes.”

Mainers narrowly voted in November 2016 to legalize recreational marijuana and establish a system for licensing, taxing and tracking retail cannabis, but a lack of rules regulating weed sales have prevented commercial dispensaries from legally opening their doors to non-medical customers.

State lawmakers passed a bill last year laying the groundwork for retail recreational marijuana sales, but Mr. LePage vetoed it in Novemvber because he said it conflicted with federal law prohibiting the plant.

The subsequent compromise bill hammered out by lawmakers would set an effective 20 percent tax rate on marijuana products, nixes the number of cannabis plants each person can grow from six to three and eliminates the “cannabis social clubs” approved by the voter referendum.

Mr. LePage opposes the latest bill because it wouldn’t combine Maine’s existing medical and recreational marijuana programs, his press secretary said Monday.

“He was very explicit about problems with having two regulatory systems and tax structures,” Julie Rabinowitz told The Press Herald.

The state legislature can override a governor’s veto as long as a bill musters two-thirds support in each chamber. The compromise bill that received final approval from the state Senate Tuesday by a vote of 25-10 passed the state House and Senate last week by votes of 112-34 and 24-10, respectively.

Nine states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, and six currently have regulations in place allowing retail sales: Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state.

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