As lawmakers gather Monday to consider regulations and oversight of the state’s impending marijuana industry, House Republican Leader Ken Fredette is sponsoring a bill at the behest of Gov. Paul LePage to extend the moratorium on the implementation of recreational marijuana until Jan. 1, 2019.
The measure appears to signal the governor’s lack of support for the bill, which has been nine months in the making. Lawmakers who crafted the regulatory framework for Maine’s adult-use cannabis industry were unsure of the governor’s support, with some expecting he would veto the bill establishing those rules.
Currently, a moratorium on implementing Maine’s recreational marijuana program is set to expire Feb. 1, 2018. A special legislative committee that has spent months hammering out rules for the legal recreational industry submitted its final version in a bill that will be considered when the Legislature reconvenes Monday. Maine voters approved legal recreational marijuana in a referendum last November, and lawmakers and analysts have been refining the language of that referendum ever since.
Members of the Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Implementation acknowledged that Maine will not be in a position to launch its adult-use cannabis regulations in February because of the time needed to train enforcement agents, to hire inspectors and perform other administrative tasks that will likely delay the launch until the summer.
Fredette said in a statement announcing his bill that he recognizes the hard work of the marijuana committee, but that there have been concerns expressed about passing a 70-page bill without allowing legislators the time to fully read and comprehend it.
“This option provides legislators with the opportunity to deal with this issue during the regular legislative session which starts in January, rather than having a straight up or down vote on the bill put forward by the committee,” he said the statement. “I want to thank the members of (committee) for their hard work and ask that the rest of the Legislature be given the time to understand this entirely new regulatory scheme they are proposing. I cannot support the current marijuana bill as proposed because of the process by which it’s being presented to us.”
This story will be updated.