State officials on Tuesday announced changes to the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Program that they said will increase security for patients and deter fraud.

Medical providers who provide patients with recommendations to use medical marijuana will be required to complete the certification process online and immediately provide an identification card to the patient.

Identification cards demonstrating legal participation in the medical marijuana program are now issued by the state, and only to patients who voluntarily register.

The new patient certification cards will be printed on specialized paper that cannot be reproduced when scanned or copied, said Kenneth Albert, director of the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services. The changes take effect Jan. 5.

State officials say the changes will improve security, although they are likely to face questions from medical marijuana users who are fearful that the state will compile a list of patients.

Dispensaries and caregivers have reported that fraudulent duplication of patient certification cards “has been a significant area of concern since the program’s inception,” Albert said. The department regularly heard stories about people who created fraudulent patient certification forms and tried to use them at dispensaries, he said.

“This will eliminate the potential for a patient to replicate his or her card to gain access to additional amounts of marijuana at different dispensaries or through caregivers,” he said.

In addition to the identification card, patients will now receive a corresponding designation card that must be given to the caregiver or dispensary where they acquire their medical marijuana. Previously, patients were able to designate multiple caregivers or dispensaries, leading some patients to acquire extra marijuana that they then sold on the black market, Albert said.

“Caregivers and dispensaries will be able to trust that the patient has been properly certified, and the state can focus more energy on other ares of administrative need in the program, rather than the processing of applications for patient identification cards,” Albert said.

The new online system complies with laws about patient confidentiality and removes the state from involvement between the patient and doctor, Albert said.

“We have no interest in capturing patient information at all,” he said. “This process will extract the state from the patient-physician relationship.”

Doctors will use an online program to enter information to create the cards, but the electronic version disappears after they are printed. The state will only retain patient ZIP codes and whether the patient is over age 18. The Maine Legislature requires that information to be collected for annual reporting purposes.

State officials say the program changes are supported by the Maine Medical Association and dispensary operators. Gordon Smith, executive vice president of the MMA, said the new patient cards will reduce the opportunity for tampering.

There are eight dispensaries and 1,704 registered caregivers in the state. The state does not track the number of medical marijuana patients.


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