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Governor’s Address: Marijuana bill reveals politics at its worst

While politicians were scrambling to pass a moratorium on marijuana legalization, their credibility went up in smoke.

Dear Maine Taxpayer,

As usual, politicians in Augusta waited until the last minute to pass legislation on a very important issue. They approved a bill allowing Mainers to possess and grow marijuana, but they put a moratorium on buying and selling it until rules are developed to regulate retail sales.

The original legislation directs the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to implement the regulations and enforcement of recreational marijuana. But ACF does not have the manpower or expertise to create and enforce these regulations. It would cost several million dollars for ACF to do this.

We have been saying since November that oversight should be transferred from ACF to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations (BABLO). BABLO already has the expertise to create the rules and manage licensing and enforcement. It would cost $1.5 million for BABLO to do this.

Both Republicans and Democrats agreed this was the right thing to do. So we proposed amendments to make it happen. Then politics-as-usual kicked in.

Democratic Speaker of the House Sara Gideon convinced Democrats to kill the amendments. Then she turned around and put the exact same language in a bill she sponsored.

This is why the average person is turned off to politics. Although they were presented with the right thing to do, political leaders from both sides of the aisle jumped in to derail it. Rather than simply agree to the common-sense amendments being proposed, they defeated the proposal so they can take credit for themselves. We should not care who gets credit for good policy, we should simply do our job for the people.

I signed their bill to enact a moratorium because the original legislation was flawed and may have allowed children to smoke marijuana. Politicians now say they will approve a bill to move rulemaking to BABLO and allocate money for it. I’m not holding my breath on this, though. I’m still waiting for action on plans for a mental health forensic unit Speaker Gideon promised we would have by Christmas.

They have broken their promises in the past. So I signed an Executive Order on Monday directing rulemaking authority to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. The Executive Order also stipulates that no employee or department of the Executive Branch may spend any money to implement the legalization of marijuana until the Legislature allocates adequate funding for that purpose.

The legalization of marijuana is a major issue for our state. We must ensure the appropriate agency creates the rules to regulate it and has the expertise and the ability to enforce it. Sadly, this all could have been done last week.

Politicians in Augusta must stop putting their self-serving interests over the good of the people. Meanwhile, as they continue to play politics, our administration will focus on good policy that is best for Maine people.

Thank You,

Paul R. LePage

Governor

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