Maine House and Senate approve sweeping reform of medical marijuana bill

The Maine Senate and House voted Tuesday night to pass a sweeping medical marijuana reform bill that overhauls the caregiver system.

The bill, which now goes to Gov.Paul LePage, would let caregivers expand their business operations. For example, they could hire more than one worker, and sell up to 30 percent of their harvest to other caregivers and dispensaries. In exchange, however, they would have to submit to more state oversight, like unannounced state inspections and seed-to-sale tracking.

The bill allows caregivers to open retail stores, letting them become mini dispensaries that can serve as many card-carrying patients as they can from 30 flowering marijuana plants, but only in towns that have authorized medical marijuana storefronts.

The municipal opt-in requirement was added by Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, mirroring a provision in the adult-use law.

“This gives more clarify to municipalities, patients and medical marijuana providers on what they can and can’t do,” Katz said on Tuesday night before a Senate chamber that was down seven members as the special session wound down. “There is going to be a single set of rules if someone wants to set up a marijuana store.”

MONTHS OF CONSIDERATION

The original bill, which was written by the Health and Human Services Committee after months of consideration, gave towns a lot of authority to regulate caregivers, including their retail shops, through ordinances or zoning, but the Katz amendment essentially allows a town to shut out caregiver retail stores by doing nothing. This mirrors the state’s recently passed adult-use cannabis law.

The amendment also would allow towns to shut down existing stores that have popped up without municipal authorization.

The medical marijuana reform bill faced a long road to even get its shot at becoming a law. It had received support in both chambers in the regular

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