[JURIST] Voters in Maine on Tuesday approved an expansion [proposed legislation, PDF] of the state's existing medical marijuana laws by a 59 to 41 percent margin [Bangor Daily News report], with 87 percent of precincts reporting. The proposed legislation, Question 5 on the Maine ballot, will allow for increased access to medical marijuana through dispensaries, and will increase the number of ailments for which marijuana can be prescribed. Although there were no serious challenges mounted against the proposal, the editorial boards of many Maine newspapers opposed [Bangor Daily News op-ed; Sun Journal op-ed; Morning-Sentinel op-ed] Question 5's passage, citing a lack of oversight of dispensaries and potential law enforcement problems. A group calling itself Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana, was also opposed to the measure [Bangor Daily News report], claiming that the measure gave the government too much control. Despite the somewhat negative view held by each of those publications and the advocacy group, the Question's passage was never seriously in doubt, as the final tracking poll [text, PDF] showed residents supported the measure by a 59 to 32 percent margin. The overwhelming support for expansion of medical marijuana may also be a positive sign for a proposal that will be circulated to Maine voters for placement on the 2010 ballot entitled An Act to Repeal the Prohibition on Cannabis, Hemp and Marijuana [petition text]. Supporters of that bill will have until September 2010 to collect the required number of signatures for placement on the November ballot.
With Question 5's passage, Maine becomes the fifth state to allow dispensaries [ABC News report], following California, Colorado, Rhode Island, and New Mexico. Last month, US Attorney General Eric Holder issued guidelines for a new policy [JURIST report] for investigating and prosecuting state-sanctioned medical marijuana use. Those guidelines reflect a pledge made by Holder in March to stop federal raids [JURIST report] on medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with state laws. Ending such raids was one of President Barack Obama's campaign promises [Boston Globe report], a view that differed sharply from the policy of the Bush administration.