Lawmaker, ACLU want expansion of Maine’s medical marijuana law

Betsy Foster uses marijuana Saturday, Nov. 12, 2012, at the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine trade show. Foster has a prescription for the drug.
Tom Groening | BDN
Betsy Foster uses marijuana Saturday, Nov. 12, 2012, at the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine trade show. Foster has a prescription for the drug. Buy Photo
By Amber Cronin, The Forecaster
Posted Dec. 11, 2012, at 12:52 p.m.

FALMOUTH, Maine — Maine’s medical marijuana law does not cover individuals who hope to use the drug for mental health or psychological disorders, but a bill to be introduced in the state Legislature by Rep. Mark Dion could change that.

In a press conference Monday, Dion, a Portland Democrat who represents portions of the city and nearby Falmouth, and representatives from the ACLU and Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine outlined proposed changes to the law.

Alysia Melnick, public policy council for the ALCU of Maine, said the goal of Dion’s bill is to obtain access to medical marijuana for any Mainer a doctor deems eligible.

“Right now, what you have is patients and their family members having to cross their fingers, hoping their loved ones condition happens to be one that happens to be approved by legislators, very few of whom are doctors,” Melnick said.

Melnick helped draft the medical marijuana law voters approved in 2009 and said that conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder were originally included, but were rejected by the Legislature.

“Initially in that bill, the proposal was to have it be that a patient would qualify [for a medical marijuana prescription] if their doctor determined that it would be beneficial to treat their condition and illness,” she said. “Unfortunately, the Legislature rejected that and left us with this list of conditions with a process to add others, but that process was never put into place.”

Dion said doctors should have the ability to prescribe medical marijuana to any patient who could be helped by the drug.

“We don’t tell doctors what they can and can’t do for any other type of medication,” he said. “Why should we for medical marijuana?”

Paul McCarrier, legislative liaison for Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, said adding conditions such as PTSD and other mental-health conditions to the existing bill is a necessary step that should have happened two years ago.

“We feel like this is a very important cause. We have veterans that are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan that are suffering from PTSD who are unable to get the medicine of choice to deal with this,” McCarrier said. “Patients and caregivers in this state have been very patient in wanting to work with the [state], but these patients can’t wait any longer.”

Melnick said the hope is that the Legislature will “see the wisdom of leaving highly personal decisions about medical care and treatment between a doctor and their patient.”

The bill is in the process of being assigned a number and entering committee work, so there is no definite schedule for when it will be seen by the Legislature, but Melnick said she expects there will be a lot of support for it once it gets there.

“It’s a bill that makes sense and it’s a bill that is reflective of the facts and the needs of Mainers,” she said. “Nobody wants to see veterans and others not able to use a medicine that has been determined to be safe. I know the public sees the vital importance and the positive outcomes of marijuana for sick patients, and there’s no reason that it should be excluded for many who could benefit from it.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/12/11/news/state/lawmaker-aclu-want-expansion-of-maines-medical-marijuana-law/ printed on December 18, 2014