BAR HARBOR — Gov. Paul LePage told the Bar Harbor (MDI) Rotary Club on Wednesday that if the Legislature passes a bill imposing a tax on the sale of recreational marijuana but not on medical marijuana, he will veto it.
He said he expected legislators to vote on the bill today (Thursday).
“Colorado has nontaxable medical marijuana and taxable recreational marijuana, and everybody is becoming a medical user. We’re making the same mistake,” the governor said.
As of last November, when Maine voters narrowly approved the sale of recreational marijuana, there were 900 medical marijuana caregivers in the state, LePage said. Now, just eight months later, he said there are more than 4,000.
“It is going to be devastating,” he said of the proposed marijuana tax bill.
“You’re not going to be able to collect the tax because [recreational marijuana] is going to go underground and stay underground. There’s no good that’s going to come out of this.”
He noted that the reason northern states such as Maine can have such high taxes on tobacco products is that tobacco can’t be grown profitably in the north, but that’s not the case with marijuana.
“You cannot effectively tax anything you grow in your backyard,” he said.
The governor addressed a number of other topics in his Rotary Club talk, including energy costs, the aging of the state’s population and school funding.
He said the Legislature was right to reject the 3 percent tax on the amount of income above $200,000 that voters approved in November. But he criticized lawmakers for adding $162 million in state funding for public schools.
“The issue with our schools has nothing to do with money,” he said.
Rather, he said, it is inefficiency, noting that Maine had 148 superintendents for a total of 176,000 students.
“And we’re ranked number 43 in the nation [in student performance]. Florida has 64 superintendents with three million kids, and they’re ranked number seven. We are very, very top heavy.”
LePage said that, overall, Maine has one of the highest property tax rates in the country.
“Education is one of the major culprits,” he said. “The second major culprit … is conservation lands, land trusts. They have taken billions of dollars of property off the tax rolls over the last decade.
“When you have an education system with skyrocketing costs, and there’s land coming off the tax rolls, that means everybody else has to pay more. Until we get a grip on conservation land, we have no shot at ever being prosperous.”