LePage says he will veto retail pot bill

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Gov. Paul LePage plans to veto the recreational marijuana bill once it reaches his desk because it would not combine Maine’s medical and adult-use marijuana programs.

The two-term Republican has problems with having two regulatory systems and tax structures for different uses of the same plant, according to his press secretary, Julie Rabinowitz.

If the pending adult-use bill becomes law, Maine would tax recreational marijuana at an effective rate of 20 percent while taxing medical marijuana at a much lower rate of 5.5 percent, or 8 percent for medical edibles. Each program would have its own set of rules.

LePage raised this concern when he vetoed the Legislature’s first attempt to launch Maine’s recreational market in November 2017. In his veto letter, LePage said having a medical program with weaker regulation and a lower tax rate would undermine the adult-use regulations and that these two programs must be considered together. He characterized the medical marijuana program as having failings and loopholes that caregivers are exploiting.

The state lawmakers who crafted the latest adult-use marijuana bill believed they were addressing LePage’s concerns when they decided to move the medical marijuana program from the state Department of Health and Human Services over to the state Department of Administration and Financial Services, which would also be managing the recreational program.

In bill workshops, lawmakers said putting the two programs under the same regulatory umbrella would allow Maine to combine certain parts of the programs, such as the enforcement of packaging and labeling, while keeping the oversight of the health aspects of the medical program under the supervision of the health and human services legislative committee.

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Their attempts to find ways to consolidate parts of the two programs appears to have fallen short of LePage’s desire for a total merger but angered many in the caregiver side of the medical marijuana community, which consider the bill the first step toward abolishment of the medical program. Caregivers who oppose the adult-use bill said that moving the medical program out of the state’s health department will be bad for medical marijuana patients.

Lawmakers who support the compromise adult-use bill hope they will have enough votes to override LePage’s veto. The bill passed with veto-proof margins in the House and the Senate last week, but a veto could erode that margin, especially among House Republicans, who last year led the effort to sustain LePage’s veto. The bill will get a final vote by the Senate and land on LePage’s desk this week. He has 10 days to finalize his veto.

This story will be updated.

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  • CLibbey

    Well, there are always opiates especially now that Narcan is so readily available–what’s to fear. Yeah, we’ll stop using weed.

  • CLibbey

    Then there’s always alcohol. Far more destructive than marijuana. If restrictions or outright illegalization are needed, it’s on that folks.

  • Jon Mennealy

    Lepage has been against this all along – it’s no secret. He was against it during the referendum and voting process. He said he couldn’t accept it if it’s still a federal restriction. Then Jeff Sessions said he wouldn’t go after pot violations in states that have approved it. So Lepage went for a different tactic. If the Legislature came up with a law that included everything Lepage wanted, he’d say it wasn’t enough and would veto it anyway.

  • FrankE

    I once used medical Marijuana, it worked wonders, unfortunately I was unable to find a blend that I was able to tolerate. Because of the nature of my illness, I am prone to bad reactions from many medications. That is something I’ve come to live with. What I can’t live with is a politician unwilling to give a break to those who may need Marijuana for medical reasons. If I were still using I would be furious that I bad to pay the much higher tax rate along with recreational users.
    As it is, it cost me almost $400.00, plus the cost of materials and the Marijuana itself just to find out that my system won’t tolerate the stuff. Three weeks ago I was forced to pay $395.00 for an inhaler I was only able to get half way through before realizing that it exasperated my neurological condition.
    I am so sick of politicians like LePage only looking at the money factor when legalizing a medication. Heaven forbid a sick person might save a few bucks with a medical treatment that may or may not work. Without having to spend almost an entire months disability benefit just to try it. No I guess there’s just to much of a possibility that the person might just enjoy the relief to much………………..

  • bob Mennealy

    Le Rage’s term can’t end soon enough!