The State House is surrounded by fall foliage Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, in Augusta, Maine. (Robert F. Bukaty, Associated Press)

If Maine lawmakers don’t fix “loopholes,” gov says, “There’s going to be no such thing as recreational marijuana”

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine lawmakers are preparing for a 2018 session where marijuana legalization is expected to take center stage.

The sale of recreational marijuana is set to become legal Feb. 1, even though lawmakers failed this year to put a licensing and regulatory structure in place.

Next year will be Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s last full year in office, and he is continuing to chastise lawmakers for his biggest pet peeve: fiscal irresponsibility and laziness. He’s threatened to not implement recreational marijuana sales or Medicaid expansion unless lawmakers fulfill his conditions.

The session begins in January.

The sale of recreational marijuana is technically set to become legal Feb. 1, even though there’s no way to obtain the needed license without a regulatory structure in place. That means lawmakers face trying once again to overhaul the 2016 voter-approved law legalizing recreational marijuana.

“We’re sort of in this world where we’re operating where marijuana is legal to have but it’s not legal to sell, so therefore there is only a black market,” said Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine.

The legislative committee that worked for months on an unsuccessful marijuana overhaul will try to get a compromise bill passed quickly, according to Democratic Rep. Teresa Pierce.

House Republican Leader Rep. Kenneth Fredette has said the Legislature needs to focus on extending the current moratorium on sales of recreational marijuana. Pierce said it’ll all depend on how fast lawmakers could pass a compromise.

LePage has said he’d need assurances from the Trump administration before establishing a new industry and regulations.

The governor predicts marijuana users will gravitate to medical marijuana instead of a recreational market.

“If you don’t fix the loopholes, there’s going to be no such thing as recreational marijuana — it’s going to be all medical marijuana,” LePage told The Associated Press.