Bill to launch recreational marijuana market is on its way to Paul LePage’s desk

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The Legislature is sending a bill to launch the adult-use marijuana market to Gov. Paul LePage Tuesday.

LePage now has 10 days to take action on the bill – sign it, allow it to go into law without his signature, or use his gubernatorial veto to try to kill it, which is what the two-term Republican has vowed to do. LePage does not want to host two different marijuana programs – medical and adult-use – with different rules and tax rates.

The Senate voted 25-10 today for final enactment of the bill. It was a largely technical vote, mirroring one taken last week, picking up one more vote from a senator who had been absent last week. The House vote had taken a concurrence vote last week, following a 112-34 vote last week.

Both houses had wide veto-proof margins in their first votes. The second vote in the House, which reaffirmed its first vote after the bill returned from the Senate, lost votes, but so-called “concurrence” votes are usually closed as soon as the two-thirds majority threshold is met, even if not all lawmakers are in the chamber or have voted.

Lawmakers said Monday they believe they have the vote margins to override a LePage veto.

If the bill continues on its current path, Mainers can expect to see the first recreational business licenses issued in the spring of 2019. It allows recreational retailers to buy marijuana from former medical growers, a provision that will help them stock their shelves and potentially get Maine’s recreational market up and running very quickly.

But Mainers wouldn’t be able to buy marijuana and consume it in a social club, because that option was stripped out of the bill to make it more politically palatable. They also would have to reduce the size of their home grow from six to three plants, which lawmakers hope will reduce diversion into the black market. Towns will get to decide if they will allow recreational marijuana businesses in their towns, but they won’t get a piece of the tax spoils, which all would go to the state.

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