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Lawmakers consider again extending Maine pot sales ban

January 9, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine lawmakers on Tuesday considered a proposal to extend a ban on retail sales of marijuana until May 1 to give the state more time to craft rules about legal pot.

Lawmakers in the state are trying once again to sort out details of the voter-approved law legalizing recreational marijuana. Recreational marijuana use became legal for adults last year, but there’s no way to legally buy it because Republican Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill created by a bipartisan task force.

The sale of recreational marijuana is technically set to become legal Feb. 1, even though there’s no way to obtain the needed license. Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, proposed extending the moratorium, the Portland Press Herald reported .

Katz is the chair of the state’s Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee. His proposal would allow the committee more time to work on a new bill that will have a better chance of passing than the one LePage vetoed. An attempt by the Legislature to override the veto did not pass.

Lawmakers held a public hearing on the attempt to revise the bill on Tuesday. Several medical marijuana caregivers who testified at the hearing said lawmakers should keep recreational use and medical marijuana programs separate. Medical marijuana already is legal in Maine.

LePage has cited numerous reasons he opposes legalized recreational marijuana, one of which is the fact that it would put the state out of compliance with federal law.

Maine lawmakers are trying to craft laws about legal pot sales following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement that he will allow federal prosecutors to decide what to do when state rules conflict with federal ones.

Halsey Frank, the U.S. attorney for Maine, said Tuesday his office will “proceed on a case-by-case basis.” Frank, who has spoken out against legal marijuana in the past, also said he does not “have the authority to categorically declare that my office will not prosecute a class of crime or persons.”

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This story has been corrected to show the hearing was scheduled Tuesday, not Monday.

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