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Maine Legislators Override Governor's Veto of Marijuana Legalization

Paul LePage's obstructionism has delayed the establishment of a legal recreational market.

Chris Kleponis / CNP / Polaris / NewscomChris Kleponis / CNP / Polaris / NewscomFor the last year and a half, Maine's governor, Paul LePage, has been blocking implementation of a 2016 ballot initiative that legalized marijuana for recreational use. Yesterday state legislators showed their patience with LaPage's objections had been exhausted, overriding his veto of a bill aimed at creating a system to license and regulate commercial production and distribution of cannabis. The vote was 109 to 39 in the House and 28 to 6 in the Senate, well in excess of the two-thirds required.

LePage's April 27 veto message made it clear that he is implacably opposed to the marijuana policy that voters endorsed when they approved Question 1 in 2016. "Under federal law, marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance," he wrote. "The federal government has deemed that marijuana has a high potential for abuse and has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. In Maine, doctors cannot legally prescribe marijuana to patients; they only 'certify' its use. Possession of any amount of marijuana under federal law is a misdemeanor crime. In 2011, I took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, and I cannot in good conscience support a law that, on its face, violates federal law."

While anyone who grows or sells marijuana is committing a federal felony, it is less clear that officials who license and regulate marijuana businesses are thereby violating the Controlled Substances Act. Arguably they are simply certifying that the businesses have met the requirements to escape punishment under state law. Assuming that the CSA does prohibit licensing and regulation of the marijuana industry, it is clearly at odds with the federalist principles embodied in the 10th Amendment, which let each state decide for itself how to deal with production and distribution of cannabis within its borders. Presumably that is one reason why even Maine legislators who opposed legalization are determined to follow the will of the state's voters.

The bill approved yesterday, LD 1719, does second-guess voters in some respects. While Question 1 allowed home cultivation of up to six flowering plants at a time, LD 1719 draws the line at three. Legislators added an excise tax of $335 per pound (about $21 per ounce), payable by growers, to the 10 percent retail sales tax described in Question 1. They increased restrictions on participation in the industry for the first three years, requiring that licensees be Maine residents and taxpayers for at least four years.

The bill eliminates provisions allowing "marijuana social clubs" where cannabis can be bought and consumed, a significant step backward in light of the problems that other states have encountered after legalizing the sale of marijuana without legalizing places to use it. In the absence of marijuana social clubs, consumption will be permitted only "on private property" that is "not generally accessible by the public" with the owner's explicit permission.

"We are grateful that regulators can now—after months of undue delay—finally begin moving forward with the process of licensing adult use marijuana sales and regulating this retail market," said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. But he added that "it is unfortunate that lawmakers felt it necessary to amend and repeal other important provisions of Question 1...in what ultimately was futile effort to curry favor with the governor."

While possession, sharing, and home cultivation have been legal in Maine since last year, LePage's obstructionism has delayed the opening of marijuana farms and stores. The legislature has charged the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services with writing marijuana regulations, which the legislature has to approve next year. State-licensed marijuana merchants are not expected to start serving recreational customers until the spring of 2019.

That schedule puts Maine well behind the three other states that legalized marijuana in 2016. Legal recreational sales began in Nevada last year and in California last January. They are expected to start in Massachusetts this summer.

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  • Citizen X - #6||

    Sorry, Governor Crazy Person, but it should be obvious to everyone at this point that "...oath to support the Constitution of the United States" has fuck-all to do with federal law.

  • emkcams||

    Federal law is not part of the Constitution. The Supremes are way out of line, and it is not the first time. It has happened regularly in our history: "Separate but equal" is a perfect example. But the beauty of the system is that things can be corrected, just like "Separate but equal" was corrected. But they may not be corrected in our life time, which is fine. The system was built with slowness imbued in it so that somebody like a Hitler cant get power and change everything in less than a decade like he did in Germany. Hard left comments that Trump is such a person (as was GWB) are laughable.

  • Eman||

    Was "separate but equal" corrected though? I don't see a compelling government interest in who i spend my time with.

  • Hank Phillips||

    There is no denying that the Republican Party Platform is very much like the German National Socialist Platform. Both advocate coercion by deadly force based on mystical homilies and pseudoscience and justified by appeals to altruism as though that were an ethical foundation. Laugh that off...

  • ClassicLiberal||

    There is also no denying that the Democrats are exactly the same way just about different items.

  • Longtobefree||

    "Under federal law, marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance,"
    "The federal government has deemed that marijuana has a high potential for abuse and has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. . . . "

    The federal government has not read a single recent report on the currently accepted medical use of marijuana . . . .

    What is illegal is Sessions refusing to remove marijuana from schedule one due to its currently accepted medical uses.

  • Juice||

    The federal government has not read a single recent report on the currently accepted medical use of marijuana . . . .

    Or any of the reports over the past 50 years.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Big Government and Big Pharma have already produced a replacement for marijuana that sold well in many countries the US via the UN forced to ban hemp: THALIDOMIDE

  • Rich||

    "I took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States"

    OK, Governor -- show me where in the Constitution ....

  • gaoxiaen||

    Well, I never actually read it. I skipped all my PoliSci classes.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Translation: "I took an oath on the Bible to support the Income Tax and Prohibition Amendments which replaced the out-of-date Bill of Rights."

  • Ken Shultz||

    "I took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, and I cannot in good conscience support a law that, on its face, violates federal law."

    What about when federal law violates the Constitution?

    It is not clear to me that the Supreme Court's reading of the commerce clause in regards to cannabis will or should stand forever more.

    In fact, it's the federal government that is probably behaving unconstitutionally, here.

  • Libertymike||

    What about promoting the general welfare? Isn't that found in your precious constitution?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Was Gonzales v. Raich decided on the basis of "the general welfare" or was it decided on the basis of Wickard v. Filburn and the commerce clause?

    WTF are you talking about? Anything? Or are you just humping my leg to get my attention?

  • Libertymike||

    Ken, don't forget that there are two clauses in play, the preamble and Art. I, sec. 8, clause 1.

    Revisit United States v. Butler, 297 U.S. 1 (1936).

  • Mickey Rat||

    Maybe, but as SCOTUS has ruled otherwise, that is not a viable argument. The only other way is to put in a Congress who will vote for repeal and president who sign it

  • Ken Shultz||

    Gonzales v. Raich needs to be reversed--both on practical grounds (the states have been licensing both medical marijuana dispensaries and recreational sales anyway, and two presidents have now refrained from interfering) and on constitutional grounds--as I recall, the Court didn't want to cite Wickard v. Filburn again to justify something like the ACA. They'd rather just call it a tax instead.

    Give the logic of Gonzales v. Raich another hearing in another case, and it may go down. Even the Court should be aware of its own irrelevancy if it continues to maintain a position based on a tortured interpretation of the Constitution even while both the states and the federal government completely ignore it. By the time they get around to reversing Gonzales v. Raich, it probably won't matter anymore.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The federal government has deemed...

    A true Republican.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Military conscription looks, smells, goosesteps, quacks and feels like involuntary servitude, but it isn't. However, handing out copies of the 13th Amendment to conscripts herded into induction centers is no more an exercise of First Amendment rights than chewing peyote. --La Suprema Corte

  • Eidde||

    "I took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, and I cannot in good conscience support a law that, on its face, violates federal law."

    He could have added that the US Supreme Court held the federal MJ statutes to be constitutional, state laws to the contrary. Game, set, match!

    Isn't it interesting that federal-supremacy arguments are so often promoted by advocates of really bad laws?

    From the Alien and Sedition Acts, to the Fugitive Slave laws and the Dred Scott decision, to federal takeover of the economy, to dope, the refrain is the same "The Supreme Court said it's constitutional, I believe it, that settles it, and anyone who disagrees with the supreme court is a nullifier perjurer anti-Constitution cray person!"

    To be sure, in the desegregation context the federal-power advocates were in the rare position of defending a good policy. I acknowledge this, but from certain commentators and textbooks one might think this was the *only* area where there was a conflict between state and federal power.

    If the dope-legalizers had followed the conventional wisdom, they would have, like Governor LePew, bent over and submitted to the feds.

    But the legalizers were actually willing to challenge the conventional wisdom and get the states to challenge the feds.

    In the field of *medical* MJ, the feds started backing off, even though they had the almighty Supreme Court on their side.

    Now the battle begins to shift to *recreational* MJ, stay tuned...

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    "To be sure, in the desegregation context the federal-power advocates were in the rare position of defending a good policy."
    Brown 1 yes. Brown 2 not so much. Forced segregation, morphed into it's opposite in the form of forced integration. The federal courts have been enforcing forced integration decrees and consent decrees for 6 decades. Not exactly the libertarian moment it could have been.

  • Sevo||

    "I took an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, and I cannot in good conscience support a law that, on its face, violates federal law.""

    Prohibitionists will resort to any form of mendacity to justify their position.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Has somebody told SCOTUS that cannibis is specifically mentioned in the 10th Amendment?

  • Ken Shultz||

    So many people think the Tenth says things it doesn't. They think it says that powers not given to the federal government belong to the states or the people--but it doesn't really mean that. Because if it did? That would be the end of civilization.

    We're talking real Wrath-of-God type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! 40 years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!

  • Mickey Rat||

    My comment was sarcastic in that Sullum makes it sound that lime there is a specific exemption from federal authority for cannibis. While libertarians might like a broad reading of the 9th and 10th amendments, the courts are not comfortsble with making such interpretations precedent, unfortunately.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I was agreeing with your comment.

    The argument that the Tenth reserves the power of the states to regulate this kind of thing makes much more sense than the argument that the commerce clause gives the feds the power to regulate everything.

  • Jerryskids||

    All you sock-puppets supporting drug legalization! Which one of you is D-Money, which one Smoothie, and which one Shifty? I know you're just here for the white wimminz!

  • EscherEnigma||

    Hey. I'd forgotten about that one. LePage is a great example why simple plurality is a terrible voting system.

  • colorblindkid||

    LePage is like America's Rob Ford.

  • Eidde||

    LePage looked at Rob Ford and said, "you think *that's* weird? Hold my beer..."

  • Occam's Woodchipper||

    What is it with dudes that look like Sheriff Joe?

  • gaoxiaen||

    If only. Rob Ford would be much better than that anal retentive moron.

  • Carter Mitchell||

    So, for some unfathomable reason, Paul LePage believes that Federal law has some relationship with the Constitution? He's obviously an idiot, words go in his ears and come out of his pie hole with no cognitive processing in between.

  • tommhan||

    Makes me sick when elected officials ignore the will of the voters.

  • gaoxiaen||

    In your eye, asshole! You have no chance of reelection. You should kill yourself now.

  • Art Gecko||

    "...a bill aimed at creating a system to license and regulate commercial production and distribution of cannabis."

    Sounds like they're going to cartelize it, not legalize it.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Yup.

  • WillPaine||

    We may euthanize or drug dogs if you legalize pot...what have these clowns been drinking? Reminds me of "Blazing Saddles" where the man threatens to shoot himself if the lynch mob doesn't stop. The "world gone mad" grows smaller every day, and a sane world is coming.

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