AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage attempted to circumvent legislative approval of which state agency has oversight of recreational marijuana sales Monday when he issued an executive order giving authority to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations.
LePage’s order comes after the Legislature, behind the voting power of the Democratic majority in the House, defeated an amendment on Thursday that would have moved oversight from the Department of Agriculture, which is called for in the citizen-initiated bill, to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations, a move that the governor has been advocating for several weeks.
Lawmakers from both parties have said they could support LePage’s wish to shift oversight but want the plan to go through a public hearing process and gain legislative approval first. They also said last week that a bill passed Thursday, which delayed the implementation of the sales and regulation system for marijuana until February 2018 and fixed legal loopholes in the bill, involved emergency issues and that LePage’s Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations amendment wasn’t one.
LePage has been attacking Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport about the issue since Thursday evening — even though Gideon submitted a bill that would move oversight to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations and appropriate the $1.6 million in funding LePage requested. LePage continued the attacks in a written statement Monday.
“The longer Democratic leadership plays these political games, the more they show the Maine people who they really are,” said LePage.
The executive order also pressures the rest of the Legislature to appropriate the money to set up oversight, which is expected to require consultant work and, possibly, new hires in state government. The order gives rulemaking authority to the commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which oversees the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations, but bars the executive branch from spending any money on the project until the Legislature makes an appropriation.