AUGUSTA — Opponents of marijuana legalization called Tuesday for the Legislature to take charge of crafting the rules governing recreational use of the drug in Maine and pledged to stay engaged in the implementation process.

Three days after dropping their recount request, leaders of the No on 1 campaign said the state needs to proceed prudently to address concerns raised about youth access to marijuana, intoxicated driving and impacts on Maine’s thriving medical marijuana network. They also said supporters of Question 1 should not interpret the narrow passage of the legalization initiative by roughly 4,000 votes as a mandate, given that a majority of voters in two-thirds of Maine’s municipalities opposed the initiative.

“It is far from a mandate,” Scott Gagnon, chairman of the No on 1 campaign, said at a State House news conference. “It is clear that there is deep and broad concern among many Mainers when it comes to the prospect of marijuana legalization. That concern must be heard and must be incorporated into the upcoming legislative process to implement the law. We must not let the pro-marijuana proclivities of Portland dictate the health and safety of Presque Isle.”

Question 1 will allow adults over age 21 to grow, possess and use marijuana, as early as late January or early February. It also will allow cannabis stores and social clubs where marijuana could be grown, sold and used. Before such establishments can open, however, the state will need to put in place what will likely be a complex licensing and regulatory framework. That rulemaking process won’t begin until after the Maine secretary of state certifies the election results and Gov. Paul LePage – an outspoken opponent of legalization – signs off on the results.

Gagnon recommended that a special joint committee of the Legislature “take on the rulemaking process” rather than leave the matter to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which has nine months to formulate rules and regulations for the program. Lawmakers are expected to consider a slew of bills related to marijuana legalization during the legislative session that begins in earnest next month.

“We don’t believe this should rest with any one committee within the Legislature,” Gagnon said. “We believe this should be an all-hands-on-deck approach to make sure it is fully informed from all perspectives.”


Gagnon and other members of the No on 1 coalition also recommended:

 Quick legislative action to close a potential legal loophole that critics said could allow children to possess marijuana.

 Higher taxes on marijuana to both pay for the program and deter heavy usage by young people.

 Strict product standards on recreational marijuana, especially edible products that could be attractive to children.

 Comprehensive annual reports to the governor and Legislature on marijuana consumption as well as the “consequences” and costs of legalization.

David Boyer, who led the legalization campaign in Maine, said it “makes sense” to have one legislative panel composed of a diverse group of lawmakers review marijuana-related legislation or proposals. And now that the outcome of the referendum has been settled, Boyer said he believes the two competing campaigns will find common ground on other aspects of legalization.


For instance, Boyer said, they both fully support making absolutely clear that only those age 21 or older can legally possess marijuana for recreational use, and they want to prohibit advertising and set strict rules to ensure that cannabis edibles are not attractive to children.

“We are ready to move forward with all of the stakeholders – the governor, the Legislature and the No side – to make sure we craft a law that works,” Boyer said.

LePage, meanwhile, indicated Tuesday that he still plans to seek legal advice before signing a proclamation certifying the results of Question 1. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, despite legalization votes in eight states and Washington, D.C. And although President-elect Donald Trump has signaled that he may defer to states on the issue, his nominee for attorney general, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, is a vocal opponent of legalization.

“I am going to have to get some legal advice relative to am I breaking my oath of office by signing this?” LePage said Tuesday on the George Hale-Ric Tyler Show on Bangor-based WVOM-FM. “Because I took an oath of office not only to the Maine Constitution but to the constitution and the laws of the country. And I am concerned that that is going to violate my oath of office, which, in fact, is an impeachable offense.”

LePage’s communications office declined to elaborate on the governor’s comments Tuesday.

As for the regulatory side of legalization, LePage said the Legislature needs to appropriate money to pay for the “infrastructure,” including regulation and enforcement. LePage has previously indicated that he does not plan to include any money for legalization in the two-year budget that he will recommend to lawmakers early next year.


“I need money. And if I can’t get money, I can’t do anything,” LePage said. “I have to have personnel, I have to have the ability to regulate, we have got to set up the infrastructure. Right now, the way that law is written, there is nothing I can do unless the Legislature acts.”

LePage also has suggested that Maine could eliminate its medical marijuana regulatory program once pot is legalized. But advocates for medical marijuana patients and caregivers cautioned against such a step Tuesday.

Medical marijuana is used by some patients suffering from difficult-to-treat illnesses – such as children afflicted with severe seizure disorders – that do not respond to conventional pharmaceuticals. Eliminating the medical marijuana program could make it impossible for parents of sick children to gain access to types of cannabis treatments that have proved effective, advocates said.


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