Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) on Friday vetoed a bill that would legalize the sale of recreational marijuana, nearly a year after residents voted to set up a system to sell and regulate the drug.
In a letter, LePage said the law would set up a bifurcated system of recreational and medical sales — which are legal in Maine — of marijuana in the state. Allowing all adults to purchase marijuana also would violate federal law, LePage said. The governor said that while the Obama administration said it would not enforce federal marijuana law, the Trump administration has said it has concerns about legal marijuana. LePage said he sought guidance from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the matter.
“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,” LePage wrote.
LePage wrote that if the state were to create what amounts to a new industry in the state, “we need assurances that a change in policy or administration at the federal level will not nullify those investments.”
The governor also cited the significant impact of the opioid crisis in the state. Overdose deaths increased for five straight years, soaring nearly 40 percent in 2016, when 378 people died.
“The dangers of legalizing marijuana and normalizing its use in our society cannot be understated,” LePage wrote. “Sending a message, especially to our young people, that some drugs that are still illegal under federal law are now sanctioned by the state may have unintended and grave consequences.”
Maine residents were asked if they wanted to legalize marijuana in a ballot question last year. The measure passed by only about 4,000 votes. The referendum called for a sales and regulation system to be set up by the end of 2017. It is legal to grow marijuana in Maine or possess less than 2.5 ounces of the drug.
The state legislature sent LePage a bill written by a special committee last month.
This post has been updated to reflect that it is legal to grow and possess certain amounts of marijuana in Maine.