Following a vote of 119-23 in the House and 25-8 in the Senate, Maine legislators successfully overrode Republican Governor Paul LePage’s veto of a bill containing sweeping changes to the state’s medical marijuana programs. The veto, which angered advocates across the country, previously left critics wondering whether or not there were enough votes in both houses to go against the Governor.
What’s In The Bill?
The new legislation allows patients to use marijuana as long as a doctor deems it medically beneficial, regardless of the condition for which it is being used. It also allows residents to have up to six new medical dispensary licenses. Caregivers can now expand their business operations and open storefronts. And it gives municipalities more regulatory power.
LePage also vetoed another bill that establishes a new kind of license for extraction of cannabis oils used in preparations such as tinctures and edibles for patients who would rather not smoke the medicinal herb. State legislators also voted to overturn that veto as well.
Pro and Con
According to a report in the Portland Press Herald, Governor LePage is a staunch opponent of medical marijuana. In fact, he has vetoed the vast majority of marijuana legislation that has come across his desk.
LePage’s veto letter focuses on the state’s caregiver system which he claims has run amok and lacks sufficient state oversight. He also cited the elimination of a list of approved conditions as a reason for his veto.
According to The Press Herald, Senator Eric Brakey, co-chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee which was instrumental in developing the new law said, “Maine’s medical cannabis program is already one of the best in the country. 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.”
An organization opposed to medical marijuana argued that the unregulated caregiver system poses a public health and safety threat and encourages black market sales. The organization’s head, Scott Gagnon said in a Twitter post, “Medical marijuana activists, just drop the charade of pretending there is a shred of science backing this medicine-via-pot-shops model.”
Both pieces of legislation enjoyed wide support within the medical marijuana community. In regards to the second bill, a cannabis consultant named Amanda Melnick who represents Maine caregivers was quoted saying, “Seeing the House vote unanimously for a bill you believe in is an amazing feeling. Maine’s medical cannabis program has always been unique and it deserves to be protected. These bills create the structure that Maine’s patients, caregivers, dispensaries and medical professionals deserve.”
The bill will become law 90 days after the end of the legislative session.