Maine governor backtracks, signs bill delaying rec cannabis program

Maine Gov. Paul LePage reversed his initial opposition and signed a bill delaying the rollout of the state’s adult-use cannabis program by a few months.

By signing the bill Friday, LePage backtracked on an earlier vow that he wouldn’t sign the measure until state legislators provided money to his administration to start drafting regulations governing the program.

Under the new law, the earliest recreational sales could begin would be in February 2018, the Portland Press Herald reported. Some initially had expected Maine’s adult-use program to be up and running this fall.

Last November’s ballot initiative, Question 1, gave lawmakers and regulators nine months to write the rules. The new law gives agencies more time by delaying the start of rec sales until February of next year.

LePage also said he intends to transfer governance of recreational cannabis licensing and enforcement of marijuana sales from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, according to the newspaper.

The bill, which passed both houses unanimously, also closes a perceived loophole that some observers worried would allow those younger than 21 to purchase marijuana. And it explicitly prohibits marijuana consumption inside a running vehicle, the Press Herald reported.

Even though Maine’s adult-use industry is expected to generate $250 million-$350 million in annual retail sales within a few years of launch, the program has gotten off to a bumpy start. Adult use narrowly passed in the November election after 50.26% of the voters approved Question 1. Opponents launched a recount effort that ultimately fizzled.