Maine’s legislature overrode Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s veto Monday, July 9, 2018, of the state’s medical cannabis law, LD 1539, and passed a bill that dramatically increases access to medical marijuana for patients and their caregivers.
With a vote of 118-23 in the House of Representatives and a vote of 25-8 in the Senate, the state’s elected officials have soundly dismissed LePage’s veto threat.
Under the newly amended legislation, doctors will be legally allowed to recommend cannabis to patients for any medical purpose after the state’s second special legislative session officially ends.
Previously, only specific, debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, intractable pain, or epilepsy were necessary to qualify for a medical-use designation.
Further, the new bill improves packaging safety standards and details how dispensaries may operate. The bill also clarifies the conditions under which medical cannabis patients, including children, may have someone else cultivate plants and administer medication for them. Caregivers may cultivate up to 30 mature plants and 60 immature plants for qualifying patients, who may possess up to eight pounds, or 3.63 kilograms, of harvested marijuana.
Once the bill is fully implemented, the state’s estimated 41,858 patients will be able to shop at any one of the 14 licensed dispensaries. Municipalities will be restricted from prohibiting caregiver-operated dispensaries, marijuana testing facilities and manufacturing facilities.
State Sen. Eric Brakey, who served on Maine’s Republican State Committee, noted in a tweet that passage of LD 1539 will make Maine’s medical marijuana program “even stronger” by creating “more access and choice for patients, more flexibility for legal marijuana businesses, and greater integrity for the overall program.”
The law specifically mandates that dispensaries may not be located within 500 feet of a public or private school campus; must provide appropriate security measures; and all dispensary officers or directors must be Maine residents.
But while LD 1539 becomes law 90 days after the state’s legislative session ends, an emergency piece of legislation sponsored by Brakey, LD 238, will take effect immediately.
Brakey’s legislation will establish a new kind of license for manufacturers that create medical cannabis extracts used in edibles, tinctures and, oils for patients. Additionally, LD 238 will:
- allow accredited medical marijuana testing facilities to operate in the absence of rules being established by the Department of Health and Human Services;
- allow qualified medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers to manufacture marijuana products from harvested cannabis; including the production of marijuana extracts by a process that does not involve inherently hazardous substances, and;
- restrict counties and cities from being able to prohibit or limit registered caregivers
This was the second time the Maine Legislature handed LePage another defeat against his anti-cannabis stance, when on May 2, 2018, lawmakers also overrode the governor’s veto of Question 1, which legalized adult-use marijuana.