LePage: After legalization, Maine should ‘get rid’ of medical marijuana

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage continued his push for changes to referendum questions passed by Maine voters in November by calling for an end to the state’s medical marijuana program on WGAN on Thursday.

Since the election, the Republican governor has mostly called upon the Maine Legislature to alter ballot initiatives that will levy a 3 percent surtax on income over $200,000 to increase aid to education and raise the hourly minimum wage to $12 by 2020.

LePage has been quieter on marijuana legalization, which apparently won but is locked in a recount. During the campaign, he urged voters to reject legalization, then focused on it on Thursday, saying “we’ve got to get rid of medical marijuana” now that recreational has passed.

“If you’ve got recreational marijuana, it’s over the counter,” he said. “Why do we need medical marijuana?”

But this eschews some important context. Maine legalized medical marijuana in 1999, allowing use for certain conditions. In 2009, voters approved a referendum that created the system that now supplies most patients. Certain strains of medical marijuana are grown for particular conditions, such as epilepsy.

Impact on Maine’s medical marijuana system was a key flashpoint during the 2016 campaign between legalization advocates and medical marijuana caregivers — who can grow in their homes for up to five patients with little state regulation.

The referendum, however, was drafted by Legalize Maine, a group of caregivers who looked to shield the medical marijuana system in a number of ways, including giving licensing preferences to existing dispensaries and caregivers.

Paul McCarrier, the president of Legalize Maine, said the intent was to have “dual programs running side by side.”

“Not to put words in the governor’s mouth, but he may want reasonable regulations on medical marijuana,” McCarrier said. “But to get rid of it wholesale could really harm not only hundreds of Maine businesses, but thousands of Maine patients with severe conditions.” — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Mainers are likely to vote on Medicaid expansion in 2017. Maine Equal Justice Partners, the group that started a referendum push to expand health care under the federal Affordable Care Act in October, said Thursday that it collected 65,000 signatures on Election Day. That’s more than the 61,000 or so needed to get the measure on the ballot, which the group says is likely to happen in 2017. We’ll have more on this later at bangordailynews.com.
  • John T. Leonard, who has led MEMIC said its 1993 inception, announced on Thursday that he’ll be retiring next year. The workers’ compensation insurer was rooted in a 1992 law signed by then-Gov. John McKernan. By 1998, Maine’s lost time to injuries fell by more than 30 percent and workers’ compensation costs fell by approximately 40 percent, according to MEMIC. U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said in a statement that progress was “a real tribute to John’s leadership.”
  • U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree applauded food labeling recommendations released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Obama administration is encouraging manufacturers to use “best if used by” date labels instead of “sell by” or “use by” labels to tamp down food waste. Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, called it “welcome progress toward reducing consumer confusion by encouraging manufacturers to adopt a consistent standard” in a statement. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • How well do you tremolo?: This “doom” band seeks a tight drummer who can “… present life to the sound” and “a guitarist or two who aren’t afraid to slow it down but know when to tremolo the goddamn strings off.” They’re looking to “change lives with its sound….sounds intense and conceited but it needs to be done.”
  • It gets him high: Someone wants to start a support group for “people who are waking up” about Earth being flat and says “they told us it is a spinning ball to make us easier to control.” We’ve known it’s round since 1522 — or maybe way before that. And don’t take my word for it: Here’s your soundtrack— Michael Shepherd

Correction: In my haste to meet deadline, I made a bit of a mess of the final item in Wednesday’s Daily Brief. In the newsletter version, I had U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra of California as a Republican. He is a Democrat. Also, he has been nominated that state’s attorney general, which is why someone has already started a campaign to replace him. — Christopher Cousins

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.