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LePage Relents, Signs Pot Law Fix

Julien Lagarde
A marijuana plant

Gov. Paul LePage signed an emergency bill on Friday that ensures minors cannot possess marijuana, ending a 24-hour squabble with the Legislature. The governor said Thursday he would not sign the bill until lawmakers passed a provision to shift regulatory oversight of retail sales of the drug.

The bill LePage signed Friday already includes a provision that allows his administration to shift some regulatory duties to the agency that regulates alcohol -- the governor's preference. However, the governor told reporters Thursday he wouldn't sign the bill. 

His decision was criticized by Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon and Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau. Thibodeau said lawmakers constantly updated LePage's office about the bill and sought his input, despite the governor's claims to the contrary. Gideon accused LePage of risking public safety by not agreeing to make the bill law before marijuana legalization for adults age 21 and older goes into effect Monday. 

“I can’t predict what happens at that point, but I know it’s not safe, as a parent I know it’s not safe. I think every person in this state should be outraged,” Gideon says.

On Thursday, LePage brushed off the doomsday scenario. When asked by a reporter if he had any concerns about the Monday deadline, LePage said, “Not for me. The law is the law. The people passed it. I don’t see what the problem is. I’m more concerned with heroin.”

Later, his Twitter account appeared to mock Gideon, tweeting at her: “The clock is ticking.”

The citizen-initiated legalization law was narrowly approved by voters in November and allows adults 21 and older to possess, use and cultivate marijuana. It included a drafting error that Attorney General Janet Mills warned could allow minors to legally possess the drug. 

Lawmakers began working to repair the bill several weeks ago. The bill not only fixes the loophole for minors, it also delays the retail sale of marijuana until next year.