Maine lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday unanimously endorsed a proposal to expand access to cannabis under the state’s medical marijuana program. A second bill that would have legalized and taxed pot was voted down 7-3 in committee, but observers say the issue promises to resurface in the future.
The first measure, LD 1296, would make registration with the state voluntary rather than mandatory for patients who wish to use marijuana with the support of their physician, reports Meg Haskell at Bangor Daily News
. This measure is intended to protect the privacy of patients, according to Rep. Deborah Sanderson (R-Chelsea), who sponsored the bill.
According to Sanderson, some people will prefer to register in order to make sure they don’t run afoul of law enforcement agencies. But patients should not be forced to be listed in a state registry to seek lawful therapeutic medical treatment, she said.
|Kennebec County Republicans
|Rep. Deborah Sanderson: “There was a lot of misinformation out there, but once we sat down together we were able to come very close to consensus”
The bill also includes a number of other provisions that clarify and change the operations of Maine’s medical marijuana program, which has existed for more than a decade and was overhauled through a citizen referendum in 2009.
Subsequent over-enthusiastic rulemaking resulted in a very tightly regulated network of patients, doctors, growers and dispensaries that some critics say violates the expressed will of the voters for a more open system with safe access.
Sanderson’s bill, which had its public hearing on April 25, got strong support from the Maine Civil Liberties Union, which favors the increased access and increased privacy in the registration process which the bill proposes.
The bill drew opposition from the Maine Medical Association for its proposed elimination of a list of specific conditions for which marijuana can be authorized. The MMA lifted its objections after the amended version approved on Tuesday restored a slightly expanded list of qualifying conditions.
Sanderson praised the revision process that enabled the bill’s endorsement. “There was a lot of misinformation out there, but once we sat down together we were able to come very close to consensus,” she said.