AUGUSTA — Maine’s medical marijuana law got a boost last week when Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill liberalizing the state’s policy.

L.D. 1296, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, eliminates the mandate that patients register with the state, and the mandatory disclosure to the state of a patient’s specific medical condition.

When the law takes effect, patients will need only physicians’ recommendations on tamper-proof paper, in case of police intervention, instead of the registration cards they carry now, Sanderson said.

She said that prescribing doctors’ contact information will have to be on the card.

Caregivers – the people patients entrust with providing them marijuana – still must register with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Sanderson said the bill’s main focus was privacy.

“One of the reasons many patients don’t want to register is that they’re sensitive about their conditions,” Sanderson said. “They also don’t want the federal government to gain access to that database. That fear is legitimate.”

Sanderson’s bill passed easily without any roll call votes. But those on opposite sides of the issue – law enforcement and caregivers – have doubts about how the new law will work.

Robert Rosso of Gardiner, a caregiver who founded a co-op of growers and patients, called the recent amendments “good and bad” – good for privacy, perhaps bad for patients’ security.

“There are a lot of those older patients who have that old-school mentality and want to stay off the books,” he said. “But, when you’re on that list and you’re pulled over (with marijuana), the police can see you’re legit and let you go.”

Rosso said he will maintain his registration with the state as “added security.”

Sanderson said she doesn’t anticipate any problems in enforcing the law, but personal motives can’t ever be policed.

“Are there going to be people who abuse this?” she said. “Yes. You find that with everything.”

Of the nine co-sponsors of Sanderson’s bill, eight are Republican; one, Chipman, is unenrolled.

Chipman, who represents Portland’s Parkside, Bayside and East Bayside neighborhoods, said police shouldn’t be focused on marijuana crimes.

“I come from a district where we have major crime issues,” he said. “It seems like there’s bigger and better things to worry about.”

LePage signed the bill Friday, saying in a statement: “I am pleased that the Legislature has voted to move the law closer to the initiated bill that was enacted by the voters. I am proud to a sign a bill that protects patient privacy and respects the will of the voters.”

James Melcher, a professor of political science at the University of Maine at Farmington, said conservative backing of the bill isn’t terribly surprising, since Maine Republicans have long blasted overregulation by Democratic leadership.

“It shows you’ve got this libertarian sentiment in the Republican Party in Maine,” Melcher said. “Sometimes, the best politics are when people you don’t expect come together on things.”

Melcher said the expansion of medical marijuana isn’t shocking, as advocates “have done a good job making patients very human. They’ve become a hard group to oppose.”

 


Facebook comments