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Lawmakers and political officials are quickly realizing that opposition to medical cannabis and even recreational cannabis is currently a political death sentence. More voters than ever before support both medical and recreational cannabis legalization. Initiatives to change state laws and federal policy are gaining momentum. Most people in this country and abroad now recognize the folly of cannabis prohibition and also the potential of cannabis to provide medications for otherwise untreatable conditions.
Sadly, laws and politicians are often the last thing to change when culture shifts dramatically toward greater social justice. this out of touch, protracted response time to changing public perceptions of cannabis is no surprise to most activist. Politicians who want to seem tough on crime will often do anything they can to undermine efforts at legalization.
Recent events in Maine highlight the ridiculous political and legal situation of cannabis in this country currently. A recent bill, called LD 1539 or HP 1050, passed the House and Senate on June 26th, 2018. The intention of this bill was to expand safe access for state medical cannabis patients. Maine’s existing medical cannabis law limits who can take cannabis to those with specific conditions. It kept caregivers limited to only five patients and prevented the best cannabis cultivators from expanding their operations to treat more patients.
Instead of a list of qualifying conditions, LD 1539 will instead empower physicians to recommend cannabis to any patient they believe would benefit from the plant. Caregivers also saw their rights expanded, as they would no longer be limited to having only five patients. They will also have the right to hire employees to serve as many patients as they can with their harvest. Finally, the state would increase the number of licensed dispensaries from eight to 14.
Clearly, this law would benefit Maine residents, especially those with serious medical issues. Lawmakers passed the bill in a special session, and they intended it to take effect within 90 days of the end of the session.
Unfortunately, Gov. Paul LePage chose to veto this bill, as he has every other cannabis bill passed since he took office. LePage specifically thinks that caregivers create too much risk and that they operate without adequate oversight. He worried about the new bill allowing caregivers to open storefronts. He also opined about the elimination of the qualifying conditions list.
Thankfully, lawmakers were not having any of that politics before people nonsense. They overrode his veto, 119 to 23, with nine lawmakers absent from the vote. That was more than the 2/3s majority they needed to override the veto on LD 1539. Lawmakers in Maine have previously overturned a veto by LePage to set the stage for adult recreational legalization in 2019.
Congrats to Maine for the upcoming expansion of its medical cannabis law and also for voting lawmakers strong enough to stand up for those who need safe access.
For previous Ladybud articles about Maine, click here.
Photo Credit: Albany NY via Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 3.0