Maine lawmakers approve three-month delay for legal pot sales

While Maine voters narrowly approved recreational cannabis use by 50.2 % in the recent federal election, lawmakers appear united in opposing allowing places to buy it.

Starting Jan. 30, adults can legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis or six adult plants. However, yesterday the New England state’s legislature unanimously approved – via a 143-0 vote in the House and a 34-0 vote in the Senate – a three-month delay to the beginning of recreational cannabis sales.

If the bill becomes law, it means the earliest cannabis sales could begin would be February 2018 instead of the initially anticipated opening time frame of next fall.

The bill can still be vetoed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, however, because some key provisions he had supported were not included in the bill.

The measure, L.D. 88, would ensure that cannabis would only be legal for Mainers age 21 or older, addressing concerns that the ballot initiative inadvertently legalized underage possession. The legal minimum drinking age in the U.S. is also 21, the oldest limit in the world that is shared by only 11 other countries.

The bill would also prohibit the consumption of cannabis while any kind of vehicle, including boats and snowmobiles, was being operated.

“The Maine Legislature today took decisive and appropriate action regarding legalized marijuana by voting unanimously for this bill in both the House and Senate,” Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said moments after the bill was sent to LePage’s desk by the Senate. “Passage of L.D. 88 means minors will not be able to use or possess marijuana legally and will prohibit driving while using the drug on Maine roads. It will also give lawmakers time to carefully craft responsible legislation around legalization to protect the public. I am encouraged by today’s vote, but much more work remains to be done on this issue.”

LePage told reporters last night that he wasn’t buying lawmakers’ promises.

“I can’t trust them,” LePage said. “And I don’t mind saying it, folks. The relationship is not strong. Now I will tell you this: They have an opportunity to get this done quickly and then we’ll start building a relationship. And I am willing to move forward.”