BANGOR, Maine — The state’s medical marijuana law, first approved by Maine voters in 1999, has been amended, and the biggest change replaces the word physician with the words “medical provider.”
The amendment , which was signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage last week and goes into effect in August, will allow nurse practitioners to prescribe the medication, members of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine announced Saturday.
The group offered a free medical marijuana information session downtown at the Big Easy Lounge inside the Charles Inn on Broad Street, organized by downtown gallery owner and patient Roxanne Munksgaard, a member of the group’s patient advocacy committee. The caregivers group also is hosting their third annual Home Grown Maine Medical Marijuana Trade Show next Saturday, April 19, at the Spectacular Event Center.
Hillary Lister of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine said the amendment originally would have banned kief, a stronger form of marijuana also called keefer, and hash, and also would have allowed the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to contract with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency to inspect caregivers.
“Law enforcement would no longer need a warrant” if the amendment had passed in its original form, Lister said.
“Those sections have been removed, and now the major change that LD 1739 will make to Maine’s law is to allow nurse practitioners to recommend marijuana for medical use,” the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine website states.
“Soon, starting in August, nurse practitioners will be able to write a recommendation,” Lister said.
Maine voters first approved the use of medical marijuana in 1999 and a decade later expanded the law to include more medical conditions and allow medical marijuana patients to legally buy marijuana from the state’s eight nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries or caregivers.
A 2013 amendment to the law, which took effect in late September, added post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, inflammatory bowel disease and other illnesses to the list of conditions for which a physician may prescribe medical marijuana.
Maine’s medical marijuana law also was amended in 2011 to make patient registration voluntary and to “expunge all information in the records of the state’s medical use of marijuana program indicating a patient’s specific medical condition.”
The changes have made it difficult to track how many Mainers use medicinal marijuana, a number that Paul McCarrier, the legislative liaison for Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, estimates is above 4,000.
Both the Maine House of Representatives and Senate have approved another medical marijuana amendment, An Act Relating to Nursing Facility and Inpatient Hospice Patients and Medical Marijuana Use, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Colleen Lachowicz, D-Waterville, and state Rep. Deb Sanderson, R-Chelsea. The legislation is awaiting the governor’s signature, the group’s website states.
Under the nursing facility act, resident would have access to “non-smokable forms” of medical marijuana, such as tinctures, Lister said.
About a dozen people attended Saturday’s informational session.
Those looking for more information about upcoming Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine events can go to the group’s website, mmcmonline.org, or call 596-3501.