Medical marijuana reform bill headed to Gov. LePage's desk

A bill to reform the state’s medical marijuana program was sent 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, although its supporters expect him to veto it.

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

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 that would address a range of problems with the program, loosening some overly restrictive rules that stunted the growth of the industry and adding new ones to close legal loopholes that some participants were abusing.

There was some pushback on the Senate floor Wednesday, with Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, echoing some of

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