In November 2016, the US state of Maine voted to legalise the cultivation, production, sale, taxation and use of cannabis. Personal use is now permitted, but a bill to implement the regulations for trade was vetoed on 3 November 2017 by the State Governor, Paul LePage.

Three months after the vote for legalisation, the state government passed a law (LD 88) to permit personal cultivation and use. The same law delayed legalisation of commercial production, retail sales and taxation until February 2018, to allow legislators to finalise administrative rules such as licensing. Those administrative rules were drafted by the 17-member Joint Select Committee on Marijuana Implementation, in a bill (LD 1650) that was passed by both state Houses on 23 October 2017. This bill has now been vetoed.

In his veto letter, the State Governor cited concerns about:

  • lack of consistency with the state’s existing medical cannabis system,
  • tax revenue possibly not covering the costs of implementation of the regulatory system, and
  • unrealistic deadlines for executive action that may result in hastily crafted legislation.

Most fundamentally though, he was concerned that the bill was in direct conflict with US federal law:

The Obama administration said they would not enforce Federal law related to marijuana, however the Trump administration has not taken that position. Until I clearly understand how the federal government intends to treat states that seek to legalize marijuana, I cannot in good conscience support any scheme in state law to implement expansion of legal marijuana in Maine. If we are adopting a law that will legalize and establish a new industry and impose a new regulatory infrastructure that requires significant private and public investment, we need assurances that a change in policy or administration at the federal level will not nullify those investments.

In this situation, the provisions of the law of January 2017 prevail, and purchase from a retail outlet should become legal from 1 February 2018; even if licensing details remain undefined. Legislators may submit a new proposal in January 2018.

This content was published in the EMCDDA’s Cannabis drug policy news