Across the country, the medical use of marijuana has become more and more accepted in the community, and Maine is no exception. With the “war on drugs” increasingly seen as a poor use of time and money, and with lesser drugs like marijuana losing much of their undeserved negative stigma, and with medical studies showing the benefits of marijuana, voters across the country have made their voices heard. In many states, including Maine, it's now legal to use marijuana for medical purposes. Other states, like Colorado, have gone even further, making marijuana fully legal. While a growing majority of Americans are in favor of legalizing pot – 53%, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center – progress in state legislatures has been slow.
Maine's medical marijuana laws started back in 1999, when 61% of Maine's voters elected to pass a state statute allowing patients, with certain types of illnesses, to use medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor. The statute, as it was passed, allowed patients to have 1.25 ounces of marijuana, and up to six marijuana plants. The law was amended in 2002, to double the amount that patients could possess, raising the limit from 1.25 ounces, to 2.5 ounces.
While a big step forward for suffering patients, Maine's marijuana laws were still primitive, with many important details left vague, and with a lot of logistical work ignored. To fill these holes left open by the medical marijuana law, the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act was passed in 2009. While the Act is too big of a topic to cover in a single blog post, here's a bird's-eye view of the Act, what it does, who it affects, and issues that have come to light since the Act's passage. Future blog posts will delve into each of these issues in far more detail.
The Act's most important sections set out who can be a “qualifying patient” and a “primary caregiver,” and their rights and responsibilities. The Act also provides the boring logistical details that Maine's prior marijuana laws were silent or vague on, such as how to keep track of who's allowed to receive or use medical marijuana, how they could officially show that they were “qualified patients” or “primary caregivers,” how to deal with such patients or caregivers if they were from out-of-state, penalties for those who violated the Act, and who could make, alter, or delete the rules that were used for interpreting potentially vague parts of the Act.
Recently, issues have cropped up, regarding how to regulate those who are allowed to cultivate marijuana plants for medicinal purposes. Currently, “primary caregivers” are allowed to grow and supply medical marijuana to a small number of people, while eight “dispensaries” can supply an unlimited number of users. Because of their size, however, these dispensaries are more stringently regulated than caregivers.
Because Maine's Medical Use of Marijuana Act is at the forefront of medical marijuana laws in the U.S., it is still being developed and changed. Attorney William T. Bly, however, is monitoring these changes to stay up-to-date and better serve the needs of his clients, who rely on his expertise to stay on the right side of the law. If you have questions or need legal advice regarding the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act, call his law office at (207) 571-8146.