Maine’s Republican Governor Paul LePage got together with House Republican Leader Ken Fredette this week, to try and delay the sale of recreational marijuana until January 2019. Maine was 1 of 4 new states to legalize recreational marijuana in last November’s ballot. All year, a committee of lawmakers lead by Republican Senator Roger Katz of Augusta and Democrat Representative Teresa Pierce of Falmouth have worked to create the best regulations for the new industry. They claim to have invited input from various state agencies and lawmakers including Fredette and LePage, only to be ignored and pushed to the sidelines. Now those lawmakers seek to delay the process so that they have more time to look over the legislation.
“Obstructionism for No Good Reason”
“The 11th-hour attempt to wreak havoc is obstructionism for no good reason,” Katz said. “Their unwillingness to problem-solve is irresponsible to the voters, the businesses and the communities of Maine.” According to the Press Herald, Pierce was equally frustrated saying that LePage and Fredette were disrespecting voters and that stalling the process of setting up a regulated legal industry was handing the market over to criminals. Both have expressed frustration over the proposed delay and fear it adding more chaos to an already complicated session.
In Search of the Simplest Route
Fredette is vying for the moratorium, however, hoping that the legislative voters will opt for the easiest and safest route which he sees as delaying the committee’s bill and taking more time to look it over. The committee’s bill is 76 pages long and lawmakers will need to take the time to read through it before voting on it. “A moratorium is the least lousy option,” Fredette said. “It gives the Legislature time to come back in regular session in January and debate this bill right. It is a major change for Maine. It shouldn’t be rushed.”
In order for the committee bill to pass, at least 100 of the 150 legislators would need to approve it. The bill has received bipartisan support and even those who did not approve it didn’t vote along any specific party lines. While Fredette is counting on legislative voters to choose the safest option, Katz and Pierce are relying on the solidity of their work to pass the committee’s bill.
Impact Only Reaching Sales
The delay would only affect the implementation of retail marijuana in the state. Adults over the age of 21 would still be allowed to grow up to 6 mature plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. However, marijuana sales would continue to be handled by the black market. This is something the committee has leaned upon to urge legislative voters not to allow delays. On top of this, experts are predicting that the legalization of marijuana in Maine would relate in an extra $20 million in sales tax revenue coming in annually which would go a long way to supporting the state and its needs.
Either way, Maine voters have made their will known. As lawmakers decide on the timing and details, progress towards implementing the recreational marijuana industry is being made, at least.