Maine’s lawmakers adopt sweeping reforms on medical marijuana

Maine’s lawmakers have adopted on Monday sweeping reforms on medical marijuana in the New England state.

The reforms include adopting a legislation that will allow patients to use marijuana if a doctor recommends it, grant six new medical dispensary licenses, permit caregivers to expand their business operations and give the state and municipalities more power to regulate them, the Press Herald reported.

“Maine’s medical cannabis program is already one of the best in the country,” said Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, who as co-chairman of the health and human services committee helped write the new law.

“The passage of L.D. 1539 will make it even stronger. More access and choice for patients. More flexibility for legal businesses. And more integrity to the overall program.”

The bill is expected to become law 90 days after the end of the legislative session.

Overriding LePage’s veto

The lawmakers adopted these reforms after the Maine House voted 119-23 and the Maine Senate voted 25-8 to override the Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s veto.

LePage, who is a hardline marijuana opponent, had previously vetoed almost every marijuana legislation that has come across his desk, the Press Herald reported.

Maine has a network of 3,000 caregivers, who can treat up to five patients at a time.

But in LePage’s veto letter, the governor criticized part of the bill which permitted caregivers to open storefronts, a practice that is already happening. However, some towns in Maine claim they were not allowed by state law, and the elimination of the qualifying conditions list, which required patients to have a specific medical condition, like PTSD or HIV, before a doctor could authorize marijuana use.

In one of his tweets, LePage said: “Medical marijuana activists, just drop the charade of pretending there is a shred of science backing this medicine-via-pot-shops model.”

The trend to legalize or reform current marijuana laws is continuing with momentum in the United States despite shunning by the federal government in Washington. In early June, Oklahoma became the 30th US state to legalize medical marijuana and Vermont the ninth state to legalize recreational cannabis.

On Monday, Michigan added 11 new ailments as qualifying conditions for patients to access medical marijuana.