This week, the Maine House and Senate overwhelmingly passed LD 1719, which would set up Maine’s adult-use marijuana market. MPP was neutral on the bill, as it removed social club licensing from the initiative voters passed in 2016. LD 1719 also reduced the number of plants adults can cultivate at home from six to three flowering plants. That said, it’s been 18 months since Maine voters passed Question 1, and it is time that adults had a legal place to purchase marijuana.
Given the veto-proof margins that LD 1719 passed by, we are uncertain if Gov. LePage will veto the bill. If he does, many lawmakers will have to change their votes to sustain his veto. We will keep you posted on what happens next.
On Friday, Maine Gov. Paul LePage followed through on threats to veto legislation that would have started the process of implementing a regulated marijuana market that Maine voters called for when they approved Question 1 in 2016. The bill, which was supported overwhelmingly in the House and Senate, would have created rules for cultivation, processing, and retail establishments, as well as set tax rates for adult-use marijuana and delay marijuana social consumption lounges until summer 2019.
LD 1650 was the product of nearly seven months of transparent deliberations in the legislature that included input from a variety of stakeholders and concerned residents. Gov. LePage and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) attempted to circumvent this legislation by introducing a bill to officially delay marijuana retail sales until 2019, but it was defeated in late October.
MPP's David Boyer released the following statement:
Gov. LePage has made a mistake by vetoing this legislation. Instead of a regulated and controlled system of marijuana cultivation and sales, Maine will continue to support the unregulated market. In 2014, the governor said he would implement a legalization law if approved by voters, but he has failed to uphold that commitment.
We call on the legislature to override this ill-advised veto. The bipartisan compromise bill proposed by the legislature will allow Maine to establish the regulations necessary to implement the will of the people as expressed last November.
In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker campaigned against the marijuana legalization initiative last year. However, he respected the outcome and moved forward with implementation of the law. It is unfortunate that Gov. LePage has not done the same. Seven other states have passed legalization initiatives over the past five years, and none have seen this type of obstructionism from their governors.
MPP will continue working with our allies and the legislature to make sure Maine voters gets the legal and regulated marijuana program they called for last year.
UPDATE: Legislative attempts to override the veto failed. MPP is urging lawmakers to address the issue immediately at the beginning of the next session.
Maine lawmakers approved a bill late Monday that would establish regulations for the legal marijuana market, with the House voting 81-50 and the Senate voting 22-9 before both chambers passed the measure in an “under the hammer” or unanimous vote. This omnibus bill, LD 1650, was the culmination of nearly seven months of work by the Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee. The bill creates the rules for licensing and regulating marijuana producers, processors, and retail establishments; sets the tax rates for adult-use marijuana; and will delay marijuana consumption social clubs until the summer of 2019.
“We commend the legislature for supporting the will of the people by passing this bill to implement a regulated marijuana market without further delay,” said David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “This bill was created transparently and inclusively, and while it may not be perfect, it essentially does what Maine voters wanted when they approved Question 1 last year. It is time to start working toward that goal of getting the marijuana market out of the hands of criminals and under the control of the state and legitimate businesses.”
Last week, Gov. Paul LePage and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) announced legislation that would further delay legal marijuana sales and cultivation until 2019 — three years after voters approved Question 1, which made marijuana legal for adults and regulated similarly to alcohol. This moratorium bill was defeated in the legislature on Monday. Gov. LePage has also threatened to veto the implementation bill, but MPP will continue working to ensure that the voter initiative is rolled out in a timely manner.
Since the formation of the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation in Maine, a few bills have been progressing steadily.
The first bill is LD 243, which would transfer the authority to oversee adult-use marijuana from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations within the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS). The Bureau would be responsible for licensing adult-use marijuana businesses, in addition to creating and enforcing regulations. LD 243 also allocates $200,000 to the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Legalization Implementation and $1.4 million to DAFS to implement Question 1. The bill is now sitting on the Appropriations table. Once appropriated, it will go to the governor’s desk for his signature.
The second bill they have been working on is LR 2391, which would create a framework for retail marijuana testing facilities. By setting up testing facilities first, Maine would hopefully avoid regulatory bottlenecks experienced in other states. Mandated marijuana testing means that enough laboratories are needed to test all the marijuana that will be sold in Maine. LR 2391 is on track to be passed before the Legislature adjourns today.
The Joint Select Committee will continue to meet in the summer and fall, after the Legislature adjourns. We will be working closely with the committee to make sure Maine’s adult-use marijuana program is set up swiftly and responsibly.
To receive updates directly from the committee, please sign up here.
Under Question 1, which voters approved in November and Gov. Paul LePage certified on December 31, adults 21 years of age and older can legally possess up to two and a half ounces of marijuana, grow up to six flowering marijuana plants and 12 non-flowering plants, and possess the marijuana harvested from those plants inside their residence. It will remain illegal to use marijuana in public and to drive while impaired by marijuana. The law will not affect employers’ drug-testing policies or their rights to prohibit marijuana use by employees.
The legislature is in the process of establishing a regulated system of marijuana cultivation and sales, which is currently scheduled to be up and running by February 1, 2018.
After recounting 30% of the votes for Question 1 in Maine last month, opponents of marijuana policy reform dropped their challenge, allowing the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol move to the Governor's desk. On New Year's Eve, Gov. LePage signed Question 1 into law.
Portland Press Herald reports:
LePage confirmed the proclamation Tuesday on a talk show on WVOM radio in Bangor. But he also called on the Legislature to place a moratorium on the sale of marijuana until lawmakers could work out all the details, including providing funding to set up a regulatory framework for legal marijuana.
Under the new law, adults over age 21 will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana or grow up to six plants. The law goes into effect on Jan. 30, which is 30 days after LePage issued the proclamation on Saturday.
Commercial sale of the drug would be regulated by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
Ballot question opponents had requested a recount of the measure, which was approved by a 4,000-vote margin but the recount by the Secretary of State’s Office was ended in December after it appeared there would be no significant change in the results.
LePage said Tuesday he needs the Legislature to provide funding to the agriculture department in order for him to move forward with establishing an agency to regulate the sale of marijuana in Maine.
Advocates are urging the legislature to begin implementation immediately and not consider a moratorium until after they have had a chance to establish regulations.
The campaign in support of Question 1, the initiative to regulate and tax marijuana in Maine, held a news conference this week to announce its final push before the election, including the launch of its first TV ad.
The ad features former Cumberland County Sheriff Mark Dion, who spent 32 years in law enforcement and understands as well as anyone why it is time to end marijuana prohibition. Watch the ad below.
One year ago, Colorado and Washington became the first states to make marijuana legal for adults, and Massachusetts joined the growing list of states that allows marijuana for medical uses. We had a big night last night. Marijuana policy reform measures cruised to victory in states across the nation.
• Portland, Maine became the first city on the East Coast to legalize marijuana. Voters approved Question 1 by a margin of 67-33, removing all penalties for possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by adults 21 and older. MPP was the largest backer of the initiative, and the huge showing of support in Maine’s most populated city bodes well for our efforts to pass a statewide measure in 2016 to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
• Colorado voters approved a statewide ballot measure 65-35 to establish taxes on legal marijuana sales. Proposition AA was referred to the ballot by the General Assembly in accordance with the historic legalization initiative approved by Colorado voters exactly one year ago today. MPP supported AA because it underscores the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana sales instead of forcing them into the underground market, as well as helps ensure cooperation from the federal government.
• In Michigan, voters in three cities adopted initiatives to remove local penalties for adult marijuana possession. In the state capital, Lansing, about 62% of voters cast their ballots in support of ending marijuana prohibition. The measures in Jackson and Ferndale also won by sizeable margins.
Now it's time to start working on racking up even more victories in 2014!
We are pleased to announce that Portland is on its way to becoming the first city on the East Coast to legalize marijuana for adults!
With 80% of precincts reporting, 70% of city voters have approved Question 1, eliminating all legal penalties for possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by adults 21 years of age and older within city limits.
Thank you to everyone who took part in this historic campaign! This was truly a grassroots effort and required a lot of hard work over the past several months. Needless to say, it all paid off.
This is not just a major victory for Portland, but for all of Maine. It will surely provide a huge boost to our efforts to pass a statewide measure to regulate marijuana like alcohol in 2016.
On November 5, voters will decide whether to approve a local ballot initiative that would remove all penalties for possessing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by adults 21 and older. Portland is the most populous city in Maine – where we intend to run a 2016 statewide initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol – and a victory on November 5 would provide a dramatic boost to our efforts. It's going to be a very close election, so we need your help. You do NOT need to live in Maine to lend your support in one of the following ways:
1. Call Portland voters using our online phone bank. Our allies at Just Say Now have created an easy-to-use system that provides voters' phone numbers, instructions, and a simple script.
2. Email anyone you know in Portland. We've created a page with a pre-written email to send to your friends and relatives. It also includes tools for sharing this message on Facebook and Twitter.
3. Make a donation to MPP. If you support our work to pass local initiatives in Portland and elsewhere, please donate today in order to move the ball forward in Maine and other states.
By taking just a little time out of your day to call some voters, send an email, or make a financial contribution, you can help us make history next week!