Maine Legislature Overrides Governor Veto on Pot Bill

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AUGUSTA, Maine — The Portland Press Herald reported Wednesday that the state's  House of Representatives voted to override the governor's veto on an adult-use commercial sale marijuana bill. Gov. Paul LePage (R) vetoed the bill that would legalize the sale of recreational marijuana back in April.

The veto was overturned in the House by a vote of 109 to 39. The legislation was drafted by a special committee and had passed both the House and Senate overwhelmingly when it was vetoed by LePage last month.

Recreational marijuana was legalized in 2016 but there has been no legislation permitting its sale. The bill then went to the Senate where legislators also overrode the governor's veto 28 to 6 later on Wednesday.

LePage is a strong opponent of legalizing marijuana and has said that his conscience would not allow him to support anything violating federal law. Recreational marijuana is legal in 9 states plus Washington D.C. and medical marijuana is legal in 29 states, but still illegal under federal law. The governor also cited fatalities resulting from highway accidents increasing in states with legal marijuana as a factor.

The governor also said that by writing more legislation for recreational marijuana, the state will have complications because they will have two regulatory marijuana tax programs. Maine already has a medical marijuana program.

LePage Is Known For His Vetoes

Legislators approved a total of 8 other vetoes, one of which included a bill requiring public school officials to have mental health training. The measure was a response to the Parkland school shooting and was opposed by House Republicans who said that the existing law already had suicide awareness training for public school educators.

The governor now has the task if beginning the administrative process which includes public hearings, inspections, licensing, and collecting tax revenue from businesses. Employees to run the state marijuana program will also need to be hired, leading officials not to expect commercial sales to begin until spring of 2019. The governor's office had no comment after the vote.

The new legislation will tax recreational marijuana at a rate of 20 percent. The bill eliminates some provisions that voters approved on the referendum. Social clubs will longer be allowed, forcing people who rent to seek owner approval, and the maximum number of plants that a person can grow at home was cut in half to three plants.

Officials expect the program to run more smoothly when a new governor is elected this November. LePage can't run again because of term limits.