Retail marijuana bill survives governor's veto in Maine

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House Republicans blocked Wednesday evening votes to add extra legislative days. That leaves the fate of dozens of legislative bills uncertainand totally dependent on whether the Legislature comes back this year for a special session.

ME lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to override Republican Gov. Paul LePage's veto of LD 1719; the enactment of the legislation establishes a framework for the retail sale of marijuana to adults, but also amends numerous provisions of the 2016 voter-approved measure - including those specific to home grow limits and taxation. "While this bill is imperfect, its overall effect is implementation of the legalization policy that ME voters approved at the ballot box a year and a half ago". Combined, existing legal state medical and recreational marijuana markets may be worth upwards of $24 billion by 2025, a cannabis industry analytics firm predicted earlier this year.

The bill eliminates marijuana social clubs, reduces the number of plants that people can have and prohibits sale near schools. The bill would require growing facilities to pay an excise tax of $335 per pound of mature marijuana plants and other fees.

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In 2017, Mr. LePage vetoed a bill passed by lawmakers that would have put ME on the path to permitting recreational marijuana sales, citing concerns with longstanding federal law prohibiting the plant.

House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, emerged in the early afternoon with a proposal she presented as a compromise, but it gained little traction with Republicans, who said they were wary of the proposal because they believed Gideon had previously violated their trust.

House GOP leader and gubernatorial candidate Ken Fredette criticized Democrats and Senate Republicans for considering a bill package, including Medicaid expansion funding. More recently, he vetoed a second regulatory bill approved by lawmakers last month in part he said it wouldn't combine the state's existing medical and recreational marijuana programs, according to the governor's office.

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