There are many intelligent, knowledgeable people in the Maine cannabis industry that opposed the recreational cannabis sales bill that was vetoed by Governor LePage earlier this week. The bill was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and I respect the opinions of those who were against it, specifically those who offered alternative options while sticking to the original ballot question’s timeline for implementation. The Governor’s veto and letter of explanation (i.e. lies) are not part of that group. With his veto and shameful excuses for doing so, Lepage is sending two messages:
- Uncle Paul & the “nanny state” mentality he so hypocritically rails against know what’s best for the people and businesses of Maine, regardless of what they vote for.
- The real meaning of the “Open for Business” sign he posted at the Maine/NH border is, “Maine: We make it easy for your out-of-state businesses to take market share from our local economy.”
The first message is one we are all familiar with: Lepage makes points with his “I don’t know why I’m angry, but I like it” base by deriding the government as intrusive in its efforts to protect our environment, control gun violence, help our neighbors in need, and provide quality services for us all. Meanwhile he uses his power as governor as a battering ram to enforce his dark-ages social agenda of controlling women’s bodies, people’s sexuality, demonizing diversity, and of course, the great evil that is taking a couple of hits of a joint rather than drinking a mason jar of Allen’s to relax at the end of the day. No surprise at the irony there.
It’s the second message that should have Lepage supporters up in arms, however.
Their “pro-business” Governor isn’t stopping the legalization of recreational cannabis sales in Maine; whether it’s next year or 2019, it’s going to happen, and he can’t stop it. But by once again blocking the will of the voters, sighting non-facts & scare-tactics while offering no guidance or constructive input, Lepage has dealt yet another serious blow to the hundreds of Maine entrepreneurs, business owners, and job seekers who have sunk all of their time, creativity, energy, and capital into cannabis-related ventures in hopes of reaping the rewards of a brand new, multi-million-dollar Maine industry. His actions are literally driving them out of business and opening the door for out-of-state competition to sweep in unopposed.
To understand the problem, one just has to look to Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and now California. The competition for cannabis industry money has been going on since 2014, and many clear winners, both in cannabis production/sales, and countless ancillary businesses, have emerged. They are experienced, well connected, have huge, steady cash flows, and are turning their eyes towards expansion in the east.
The longer it takes for the market in Maine to open up to them the better: they will simply get more experienced, make more connections, and build up even more expansion capital. Meanwhile, local entrepreneurs & businesses play a desperate game of trying to position and market themselves while protecting their dwindling cash flow for yet another unknown length of time before they will be able to see any revenue come in. Lepage, elected on the promise of eliminating over-reaching government inference in local business growth, is now actively creating it.
These aren’t imaginary forecasted dollars & businesses. These are Maine taxpayers from all walks of life working endless hours and throwing everything they have into their new products and companies in hopes of creating something special for themselves and their families. They are the living, breathing, “job creators” and “revenue generators” Lepage waxes poetically about helping. I’ve gotten to know many of them over the past three years as my company (NECANN) has hosted an annual Maine Cannabis Convention. An event that started with just 60 exhibitors at the Sullivan Gym at USM in 2015 has grown to close to 150 exhibitors and 3,000+ attendees at the Portland Sports Complex last month. The amount of creativity, intelligence, drive, on display was inspiring, something the Governor should be spotlighting and applauding, not blocking. To be clear, these people aren’t looking for protectionism or an unfair advantage over companies that are from out of state. All they are asking for is a level playing field for them to compete on: in this case, just a dependable timeline from the Governor for implementation of a law that was passed by the people he was elected to serve.
Cannabis is an industry that is uniquely positioned to benefit local businesses and local economies like no other, due to the ban on transporting product over state lines. It’s an industry that has proven to have no negative effects on local communities in states where it is legal and regulated, actually helping put criminal elements & grey market, no-tax sales out of business. It’s an industry proven to create jobs, new local businesses, and huge increases in tax revenue. An industry that has proven to add significant value to tourist economies, and has been one of the bright spots in the losing battle against the opioid addiction that plagues the entire country.
It’s an industry the people of Maine need, and voted to have. Wouldn’t it be great if Maine actually had a pro-business, anti-government interference leader instead of someone who just pretends to be?