AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Members of the Legislature worked until late Monday night to finally pass a bill to implement Maine's recreational marijuana law. That law was passed by voters in November 2016 but required significant added detail from the Legislature.
While Mainers have already approved the legal use of recreational pot, the much-debated bill sets up licensing guidelines for growers, retailers, and secondary product manufacturers.
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The final votes on the bill — which was created over months of discussion by a special Legislative committee — came after the House rejected an effort to delay the vote until January and extend the current moratorium on commercial sales of the drug for another year.
House GOP leader Rep. Ken Fredette argued that there were numerous problems with the bill that need fixing.
Democrats and marijuana advocates argued there had been plenty of time used already, and that Maine needs to have the bill passed into law to provide structure and oversight if the legalization effort as soon as possible.
Rep. Teresa Pierce of Falmouth, Democratic co-chair of the committee and author of the bill, told the Portland Press Herald, “This was not a vote for or against recreational marijuana use. Maine voters decided that already,” Pierce said. “This was our chance to do our job and protect the people of Maine as we follow the law and create this new industry. I’m proud that we’ve done that.”
The House rejected Fredette's proposal and passed the bill on an 81-50 vote. That's well short of the number needed for a two-thirds majority to overcome a veto from the Governor, which Rep. Fredette said he expects.
The Senate passed the bill as well, with a total much closer to the two-thirds threshold.
If the Governor does veto, and lawmakers are unable to override it, the Legislature would presumably take up the issue again in January.
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