House Panel Approves Tweaks To Pot Law

Jan 26, 2016

A House panel gave approval Monday to a bill that would tweak the state's low-THC cannabis law.

The House Health Quality Subcommittee unanimously approved the measure (HB 1313), sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford.

The proposal would restrict the types of physicians who can order the non-euphoric marijuana, authorized by lawmakers in 2014, to doctors who are board-certified or who specialize in cancer or epilepsy treatment. Doctors would also be required to have treated patients for at least six months before they could order low-THC products for them.

Physicians who work for "dispensing organizations" would be barred from ordering the low-THC treatment for patients. And the proposal would limit dispensing organizations to selling 30-day supplies and prohibit the retail establishments from selling anything other than physician-ordered low-THC products and paraphernalia.

The 2014 law legalized non-euphoric marijuana for patients with cancer or who suffer from chronic muscle spasms, after lobbying by parents of children with severe epilepsy.

The bill approved Monday would also impose stricter regulations on dispensing organizations, which will grow, process and dispense the low-THC products. The proposal establishes more regulations for the dispensing organizations, including standards for growing, transporting, testing and labeling the marijuana products.

Brodeur said his proposal is based on laws in other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

"This does a lot of clean-up and the clean-up is not us making policy choices out of thin air," he said.

The measure would also give the Department of Health the ability to perform surprise inspections and impose up to $10,000 fines.

Implementation of the low-THC law has been delayed because of legal challenges to the Department of Health's proposed rules. Health officials in November picked five dispensing organizations, prompting a dozen challenges.

Hearings in the challenges are slated from March through July, but the agency is asking the dispensing organizations to start growing marijuana anyway. There is no companion bill in the Senate, but many of the elements of Brodeur's proposal are expected to be added to another measure that would add full-strength marijuana to the experimental treatments available to terminally ill patients.