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Uncertain Federal Cannabis Policy Takes its Toll – Maine Governor Vetoes Bill to Regulate Sale and Tax on Adult Use Marijuana

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Uncertainty on the federal level in the US is setting back cannabis law reform on the state level as well. The first evidence of the new administration’s effects on the progress of cannabis law is unfolding as winter is approaching in Maine.

Gov. Paul LePage, the Republican Governor of Maine has vetoed the bill to set the rules for sales and taxes on adult use marijuana, passed by lawmakers less than 2 weeks ago.

Maine citizens voted narrowly in favour of legal adult use cannabis nearly a year ago. Growing and processing cannabis has been legalized on 1st of February this year (2017), however, the sales and taxing of adult use cannabis have been delayed until February 2018.

After the surprising election victory of Donald Trump, the cannabis community started to speculate what President Trump would mean for cannabis.

Initially, there were legitimate arguments on both sides. However, as time passed by and Jeff Sessions got nominated and then became the Attorney General, there were a growing number of signs to be concerned about.

When Sessions took office and begun his outdated Reefer Madness-style misinformation blasts from the 60’s, it became apparent that the new administration may not be good news for cannabis.

Some of the words coming out of his mouth had made the cannabis community shiver. The top law enforcement official is being so obviously misinformed about cannabis is surely a major concern.

He does not think any good people would smoke cannabis in the first place.

“Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

He thinks cannabis is dangerous, despite being the safest therapeutic substance known to humans.

“I’m not in favor of legalization of marijuana. I think it’s a more dangerous drug than a lot of people realize.”

He made news time after time for quotes like the above and for actively blocking medical cannabis research.

The damage that all of this was doing to cannabis law reform was apparent, however, Governor LePage’s veto, sighting the Trump administration’s change in direction is the first actual evidence of how the new administration’s position on cannabis (mostly set by Sessions) is influencing lawmakers to make decisions that sets law reform back.

“The Obama administration said they would not enforce federal law related to marijuana; however, the Trump administration has not taken this 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.”

Obviously, the federal pressure is working and it is easy to understand why the governor is hesitant to invest time and money into building the required infrastructure, when the Department of Justice has switched to a strong anti-cannabis tone, threatening to shut down legal adult use markets on the state level.

“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.”

The bill passed with a two-thirds majority in the Senate, but not in the house, so the Governor could veto it.

There are efforts to override the Governor’s veto led by cannabis advocacy groups.

“Governor LePage has made a mistake by vetoing this legislation. Instead of a regulated and controlled system of marijuana cultivation and sales, Maine will continue to support the unregulated market,” David Boyer, political director of Maine Marijuana Project was quoted saying to the Associated Press.


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