AUGUSTA — It says something about the sour nature of Maine politics that a marijuana measure adopted unanimously by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor could wind up exacerbating the rift between state leaders.

One day after insisting he would not endorse the measure until legislators fixed it, Gov. Paul LePage signed the bill late Friday giving lawmakers another year to come up with regulations for sale of the drug and ensuring that only those over 21 can possess marijuana only after an unsuccessful bid to get legislators to take additional steps.

At nearly the same time, he issued a statement on Facebook smacking House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, for “dirty politics” and insisting she will have to work hard to earn his trust.

State Rep. Jared Golden, the Democratic whip from Lewiston, said he is thankful that LePage “caved to common sense and signed this bill” after claiming he wouldn’t.

“Too bad he couldn’t do what’s right for Mainers without slandering Speaker Gideon,” Golden said.

“The governor says she needs to work hard to earn his trust. That’s laughable. House Democrats know better than to put our trust in this governor,” the second-term lawmaker said. “We’ve been dealing with his partisan leadership for six years now.”

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Golden said it’s a good thing for Mainers that the Legislature has “reasonable leaders” like Gideon and Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, who are able “to help move this state forward.”

LePage said the emergency marijuana measure only reached his desk Thursday, just four days before recreational marijuana becomes legal. He said he’s been asking since November for an amendment that would provide money to start writing rules for marijuana sales and to put the responsibility for overseeing marijuana under the Bureau of Alcohol Beverages and Lottery Operations.

LePage said the amendment, introduced Thursday by Rep. Brad Farrin, R-Norridgewock, could have been included in the measure he signed but Gideon “whipped her caucus and killed” his proposed changes.

“Then she turned around and introduced the exact language in a bill she sponsored,” he said.

Since he claims he doesn’t trust Gideon to approve the bill she submitted, he vowed to issue an executive order Monday that will delegate oversight of marijuana to alcohol and lottery overseers instead of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry called for in the Nov. 8 referendum’s wording.

 “I deal in policy, and others deal in politics,” LePage said.

LePage tossed in praise for House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, and Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, “for their attempts to fix this bill.”

“Unfortunately, Speaker Gideon is playing dirty politics, while Ken and Troy are truly working for the best interests of the Maine people,” LePage said.

“Speaker Gideon is new in her leading role, and her inexperience is apparent,” LePage said. “She claims she wants to work with the executive branch, but it’s clear she does not.”


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