AUGUSTA, Maine (June 17, 2015) – The Maine Senate rejected a bill that would have expanded upon the state’s current medical marijuana program and further blocked in practice the federal program on the same.
Introduced in January by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland), Legislative Document 23 (LD23) “removes from the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act any limitation on the type of medical conditions for which patients may be certified by their physicians to engage in the medical use of marijuana.” It had passed the state House on May 28 with a 113-32 vote. However, the state Senate rejected the bill on June 16 with a 16-19 vote, effectively killing this reform.
In 1999, Maine passed the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act, which started the process of thwarting in practice the deplorable federal prohibition within the state by authorizing the plant’s use in limited, medical situations. LD23 would have built upon this law in a narrow but important way.
With marijuana considered illegal by all branches of the federal government, LD23 would have represented a significant expansion of the state-level, practical measures already in place to fight the prohibitionist policies of Washington D.C. The Senate rejected the bill in spite of it being completely legitimate and consistent with well-established Supreme Court precedent.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the legal doctrine of anti-commandeering. It rests primarily on four SCOTUS cases – Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842), New York v. US (1992), Printz v. US (1997) and National Federation of Businesses v. Sebelius (2012). Using the anti-commandeering doctrine, nearly two-dozen states have taken steps to secure the well-being of their citizens by legalizing marijuana to varying degrees in spite of federal commands to the contrary.
The passage of this bill would have been a step in the right direction for cannabis rights advocates in the state of Maine. The top-down federal mandates that have failed for so many decades need to be replaced with a more compassionate, decentralized approach that is responsive to the needs of the people.
Unfortunately, Maine has missed a golden opportunity to make medical marijuana more accessible to patients and hastened the end of the federal drug war. Call your state senators and let them know that they have shirked their duties, and implore them to act next year to relax marijuana restrictions in the state - or face the electoral consequences!