AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Governor LePage signed the marijuana moratorium bill into law on Friday afternoon, one day after the bill passed the legislature and three days before recreational pot becomes legal in Maine.
The moratorium law allows personal use of the drug starting Monday, but buys the Governor and Legislature a year to fine tune marijuana policy, before retail sales will be allowed to begin all over the state.
It was not certain if the governor would approve the legislation, since two provisions he wanted were shot down in a House vote Thursday.
Governor LePage asked for $1.6 million in funding, so the state could hire staff and pay other costs to begin creating new rules needed to implement the law. He also asked that oversight be switched from the Maine Department of Agriculture to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.
Democrats had opposed adding the Governor's two items to the emergency moratorium bill, saying those issues could be decided by a special committee that will be formed next week.
So Governor LePage's action on the bill Friday afternoon was two-fold: he signed the moratorium bill, as is, into law. But he also issued an executive order, turning one of his requested changes into law.
“Because I do not trust Speaker Gideon will approve my language in the bill she submitted in her own name, I will issue an Executive Order delegating oversight of marijuana from ACF to BABLO,” said Governor LePage. “However, no rules will be promulgated until the Legislature allocates money to fund the rulemaking process. I sign this bill today to protect Maine children from the dangers of marijuana.”
Maine Speaker of the House Sarah Gideon, a democrat, was heavily criticized in Governor LePage's announcement.
“I deal in policy, and others deal in politics,” said Governor LePage. “I would like to commend House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Senate Democrat Leader Troy Jackson for their attempts to fix this bill. Unfortunately, Speaker Gideon is playing dirty politics, while Ken and Troy are truly working for the best interests of the Maine people.”
The governor goes on to say that Speaker Gideon convinced her party to reject his amendments, then introduced a new bill in her name, that does the exact same thing.
Democrats in the House say Speaker Gideon submitted her own version of Governor LePage's requests in order to allow time for public hearings.
The new moratorium law, called "An Act To Delay the Implementation of Certain Portions of the Marijuana Legalization Act," puts a hold on many aspects of the legal pot law. Because the language of the legalization act started as a referendum question put before Maine voters, lawmakers said they had some concerns about possible loopholes.
The referendum language did not specifically state that marijuana possession would be illegal for people under 21. It only specified that marijuana possession would become legal for those over 21.There was some question about whether or not this would make it legal for minors to possess pot, but lawmakers decided to expressly forbid it in this new legislation.
The "moratorium" portion of this law puts a hold on dispensaries opening in Maine. Adults will be allowed to have pot starting on Monday, but no commercial growing or retail sites will be allowed to open for another year, to give time to legislators to create needed regulations.