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Maine Lawmakers Override Governor’s Veto to Increase Medical Marijuana Access

While state residents wait for voter-approved recreational cannabis sales, legislators have moved past partisanship to lower barriers to marijuana medicine.

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State Capitol Building in Augusta, Maine; photo via iStock/ eyecrave

Legislators in Maine’s capital voted Monday to implement a far-reaching expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program, overriding a recent veto from notoriously anti-cannabis Governor Paul LePage.

According to the Portland Press-Herald, Maine’s Senate and House passed the medical marijuana expansion plan by a total vote of 144-31, more than the two-thirds approval necessary to overrule Gov. LePage’s attempt to kill the measure.

Now resurrected from the dead, the MMJ expansion law, L.D. 1539, will effectively remove qualifying conditions from the Pine Tree State’s medical program, instead granting licensed physicians the ability to recommend cannabis for any ailment they see fit. A similarly progressive open-access provision was recently included in Oklahoma’s successful medical marijuana initiative.

In addition to the provision shifting discretionary power to local doctors, the new law will allow for the establishment of six new medical dispensaries, and enable home-based caregivers to expand their businesses.

“Maine’s medical cannabis program is already one of the best in the country,” Sen. Eric Brakey, coauthor of the new law, told the Press-Herald. “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.”

But even as local lawmakers move to open up Maine’s medical market, the state’s eventual adult-use cannabis industry is still going through growing pains. Passed during 2016’s general election, Maine’s legalization of recreational cannabis has since suffered its own gubernatorial veto, another legislative override, and months of regulatory bickering. LePage has consistently rebuked the state’s proposed cannabis tax structure, driver safety measures, and sales regulations. While East Coast states like Massachusetts have already begun licensing ganjapreneurs, Maine’s green rush dreams have repeatedly stalled.

Now, while Maine residents wait for adult-use cannabis to go on sale (currently projected to start in spring 2019), the rewritten medical rules will allow thousands of Mainers to access safe, legal cannabis medicine.

Maine’s new medical marijuana provisions will go into effect 90 days after the end of the current legislative session.