Posts Tagged ‘medical marijuana in maine’

Diverse Coalition Fuels Maine’s Medical Marijuana Progress

maine marijuana

Maine’s medical marijuana laws — wrought by activists and enshrined by legislative Democrats — got a boost from conservatives last week when Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill liberalizing the state’s policy.

L.D. 1296, “An Act To Amend the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act To Protect Patient Privacy,” sponsored by Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, eliminates the mandate that patients register with the state.

Sanderson’s bill also eliminates mandatory disclosure to the state of a patient’s specific medical condition.

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

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

Caregivers — people patients entrust with providing them marijuana — still have to register with the Maine 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.”

eric holder marijuana

In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder directed federal prosecutors not to prosecute marijuana users who conform with state medical marijuana laws. But in 2011, federal prosecutors wrote letters to officials in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, directing them not to liberalize medical marijuana laws.

Rep. Benjamin Chipman, a Portland independent, said federal policy “makes no sense.”

“I don’t think we need to be worried about what the federal government has going on,” he said. “We’re in the Capitol to make state law, and that’s what we’re doing.”

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, a Gardiner caregiver who founded a co-op of growers and patients, called the recent amendments “good and bad” — good for privacy, perhaps bad for patient 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’ll maintain his registration with the state as “added security.”

Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey said the law is part of “an effort to be very liberal with the dispense of marijuana.”

“We are law enforcement,” Massey said. “As law enforcement officials trying to enforce law, if we ask for reasonable information, we should get that.”

Medical Marijuana

As to the new medical marijuana amendments, Massey said: “We are often on the side of privacy and confidentiality to the detriment of public safety.”

Massey said he is opposed to any liberalization of marijuana, whether total legalization or for medical use.

He said he has seen cases where those with state authorization have used marijuana in public.

“When I have a prescription, I’m not using it out in the open,” he said. “The law is overwhelmingly for illegal uses by people who will now use [marijuana] legally.”

Sanderson said she didn’t anticipate any problems enforcing the law, but that 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 June 24, 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 may be peculiar to those in “red states” but isn’t terribly surprising coming from Maine Republicans who 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 here isn’t shocking, as advocates “have done a good job making patients very human. They’ve become a hard group to oppose.”

Sanderson, who said she voted against the successful 2009 medical marijuana referendum that led to her bill, has now changed her tune.

“I think it’s a human issue. You have folks out there that are really ill,” she said. “I was wrong in stigmatizing the use of this.”

Michael Shepherd — 621-5662

Article From Kennebec Journal

Feds Throw Weight Around On Washington’s Medical Marijuana Bill

The feds are throwing their weight around again when it comes to Washington state’s medical marijuana law. A proposal to rewrite the state’s medicinal cannabis rules attracted federal attention after Governor Christine Gregoire asked for “clear guidance” about the U.S. Department of Justice’s position on state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, which would be legalized under the new rules.

Gov. Gregoire, who sent the letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday, claims she “became concerned” about a “potential federal crackdown” after speaking with the U.S. attorneys for Eastern and Western Washington, Michael Ormsby and Jenny Durkan, reports Jonathan Martin at the Seattle Times.
The prosecutors claim they are concerned that the proposed legislation “would legalize commercial sales of marijuana,” according to state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the bill’s prime sponsor.
Mike Ormsby.jpeg
Photo: Seattle Weekly
U.S. Attorney Michael C. Ormsby likes to run his mouth and throw his weight around.
U.S. attorneys Ormsby, who already started threatening Spokane dispensaries last week, and Durkan noted that the U.S. attorney for Northern California was threatening to prosecute operators of a proposed commercial grow farm in Oakland, even though the farm was licensed by that city and legal under state law, Gov. Gregoire said in her letter to the Attorney General.
The bill in question, SB 5073, would create new state licenses for dispensaries, grow farms and cannabis food processors. State licensing of dispensaries is already in place or is currently being implemented in states like Colorado, Maine, New Jersey and New Mexico, as well as in the District of Columbia.
Gregoire’s letter seeks federal input before considering whether to sign the bill. Some political observers of a cynical bent believe the governor may simply be seeking political cover for a spineless veto of all or portions of the bill.
“The governor wants to make sure that if a law goes forward, it’s done in a way that won’t set up Washington state for an endless battle of court cases,” claimed her spokesman, Scott Whiteaker.
Photo: News Junkie Post
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles: “Why should our state be treated any differently than other states?”
​ But Sen. Kohl-Welles said she was mystified why the Department of Justice would treat legalized dispensaries in Washington any differently from six other states and D.C., which all currently license and regulate dispensaries.
“Why should our state be treated any differently than other states?” Kohl-Welles rightly asked.
Ormsby, the headline-seeking hot dog of a U.S. attorney in Spokane, last week threatened in a news release to seize property where dispensaries were operating. An estimated 40 dispensaries do business in Spokane.
Ormsby warned that “marijuana stores” are illegal, and threatened property owners who rent to them with forfeiture of their buildings if they refused to evict the dispensaries.
“We are preparing for quick and direct action against the operators of the stores,” Rambo, I mean Ormsby, wrote.
At least 120 dispensaries are operating statewide in Washington, with marked differences in enforcement from county to county. The shops are using a gray area of the voter-approved 1998 medical marijuana law, which neither expressly allows nor prohibits the dispensaries.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law as a Schedule I substance, but the U.S. Department of Justice has taken a mostly hands-off approach to patients and providers in states where medicinal cannabis is legal since an October 2009 memo issued shortly after Attorney General Holder took over.
That memo famously said that patients and providers in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state laws were not a priority of federal law enforcement, but a trickle of federal raids has continued to take place, including multiple raids in the past month in Montana and California.
However, the DEA has to our knowledge, so far at least, never raided any state-licensed medical marijuana growers or dispensaries in states like New Mexico and Maine, which explicitly allow and license the facilities through their state health departments.

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