Maine’s New Medical Marijuana Privacy Law Under Federal Scrutiny

May 15th, 2011 by admin Leave a reply »

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By John Richardson

Mainers who use marijuana to ease symptoms of chronic medical conditions would no longer have to register with the state under a proposal that appears likely to be approved by the Legislature.

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously this week in favor of an amended version of L.D. 1296, which sought to deregulate Maine’s medical marijuana program and protect the privacy of patients.

No vote has been scheduled in the House or Senate, but the bipartisan support — and the blessing of the LePage administration — means the bill is almost certain to pass.

There is one potential hitch. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is reviewing the bill, and the state’s existing rules, and is expected to add its input before a final vote.

Marijuana use, whether medicinal or not, remains a federal crime. While the U.S. Department of Justice has historically not interfered with state-sanctioned medical uses of the drug, U.S. attorneys have recently objected to the expansion of medical marijuana programs in other states, including Rhode Island.

Maine’s amended bill doesn’t include everything that medical marijuana advocates wanted, but it would provide the kind of access and privacy protections that voters endorsed in 2009, said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea.

“It really affords patient privacy,” Sanderson said Friday. “The registration becomes voluntary and the patient’s diagnosis remains with the doctor.”

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