Medical marijuana reform bill advances

A bill to reform the state’s medical marijuana program appeared headed to Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday.

The second major piece of cannabis legislation to pass both houses of the Legislature in as many days would expand the number of people who can qualify for a medical marijuana card, increase the number of state-licensed dispensaries and allow registered caregivers to see more patients, hire more workers and run storefront operations without the threat of legal reprisal. LePage has 10 days to act on the bill once it lands on his desk, although its supporters expect him to veto it.

The status of the bill and whether it needs additional enactment votes was unclear early Thursday, as lawmakers worked late into the night debating whether to extend the session. Enactment votes are procedural actions taken before a bill can advance to the governor.

The Senate voted 25-10 in favor of the bill on Wednesday. The proposal was approved by the House with ease on Friday, without debate or even a roll call.

“Years back, when I first encountered the idea of medical marijuana, I thought it was a joke … just some clever excuse used to try to get to adult-use marijuana, but I was wrong,” said Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, co-chair of the legislative committee that spent months crafting the bill. “My fiancée is a medical cannabis patient. … She suffered with intractable pain for much of her life. I have personally seen how access to this medicine has helped her.”

SHARP CRITICISM FROM GOVERNOR

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This legislative reform has been more than two years in the making, delayed while lawmakers waited to see what would happen to the recreational marijuana bill. After waiting for 18 months, the committee decided it had to push through an omnibus bill

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