Maine legislative leaders agree on deal to delay parts of marijuana law

The leaders of the Maine House and Senate have agreed to a limited moratorium on legalizing marijuana, putting off many of the provisions of the new law until Feb. 1, 2018.

Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport and Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport have been negotiating the terms of the moratorium for several days, resulting in a bill that appears on today’s House calendar. The bill is being referred to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee as an emergency measure, which means it would go into effect immediately if at least two-thirds of the members in each chamber support it.

Possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana will still become legal Jan. 30 as directed by the citizen-initiated referendum that passed in November but many of the initiative’s other provisions will be delayed a year.

The bill delays implementation of the state’s system to regulate sale and licensing provisions, which in this version of the legislation would remain under the authority of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. It also gives the state more time to develop a testing and certification program for retail sales.

There are other changes in the moratorium bill:

  • Marijuana can be consumed only in a “private residence” until Feb. 1, 2018, as opposed to a “nonpublic place” as proposed in the original legislation.
  • Legalization of the sale or possession of retail edible marijuana products will be delayed until Feb. 1, 2018.
  • It closes a loophole from the original legislation that would have allowed marijuana possession by minors who don’t have authorization to possess marijuana for medical use.

David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, responded by calling a conference this morning at the State House.

“Question 1 has a nine-month delay built in,” said Boyer to the BDN. “These politicians are clearly thumbing their noses at voters by proposing Maine delay this process before it has even started.”

Mary Erin Casale, spokeswoman for Gideon, said the bill would go through a public hearing process prior to votes by the full Legislature. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • L.L. Bean responds: As you’ve read (or can in the reading list below if you haven’t), Maine retail giant L.L. Bean is the target of a boycott because of Linda Bean’s financial support of Republican Donald Trump for president. Company spokeswoman Carolyn Beem said in an email to the Bangor Daily News Tuesday that Linda Bean’s opinions are her own and not the company’s. “As every member of this very large family would agree, no single person represents the values of the company that L.L. Bean built,” wrote Beam. “Unfortunately, some have attempted to attribute the personal political activities of one member of a five-generation ownership family to our entire company. That is both illogical and unfair.”
  • King proposes Obamacare Band-Aids: Following his floor speech earlier this week about how having health insurance helped his doctors detect and treat skin cancer when he was in his 20s, Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King on Tuesday made another effort to stall congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. King co-sponsored an amendment that opposes Obamacare repeal, then  introduced five amendments to the budget resolution that aims to kill the ACA. Given the drive among Republicans to kill President Barack Obama’s signature legislation and pressure from President-elect Donald Trump, the amendments have slim chances of passing in votes that are expected to take place on Capitol Hill today.
  • LePage eggs on Humane Society: BDN reporter Lauren Abbate was at Maine’s annual agricultural trades show in Augusta on Tuesday, where Gov. Paul LePage took aim at what is apparently one of his least favorite groups, the Humane Society of the United States. She writes that LePage“addressed a complaint filed by the Humane Society of the United States against a Turner egg facility last year, which alleged animal cruelty. He said a state investigation into the complaint found that there was no wrongdoing at the egg production facility owned by Jack DeCoster and operated by Hillandale Farms, which is based in Pennsylvania.

    Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry spokesman John Bott confirmed Tuesday that the department had completed its investigation of the Turner facility at the end of last year and found no wrongdoing.
    The Humane Society of the United States group filed the complaint after an employee of the Turner facility ― a Humane Society of the United States supporter ― conducted an undercover filming operation at the facility.
    LePage said Tuesday that he plans to ask the Legislature to draft legislation that would remove whistleblower protections from instances where political lobbyist groups use false pretenses to gain access. He said he also has sent a letter about this concerns with whistleblower protection of political groups to U.S. president-elect Donald Trump.

Reading list

Looking out for the children

A bipartisan group of 60 lawmakers attended the first meeting of the newly formed Legislative Children’s Caucus on Tuesday at the State House. Founded by Democratic Sen. Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth and Republican Rep. Matt Pouliot of Augusta, the caucus is committed to advocating for children in a range of ways. The group on Tuesday welcomed Rob Grunewald, economist of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, who discussed how investments in children reap societal rewards later.

The next meeting of the Legislative Children’s Caucus is scheduled for Jan. 24. In the meantime, here’s their soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.