Medical marijuana providers and patients gathered outside the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday to protest a series of proposed rule changes that one provider called “obscene and cost-prohibitive.”

In January, the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy released a preliminary draft of rule changes to the medical program that officials said were “meant to align the program with state law.”

The changes immediately drew the ire of many in the medical marijuana community, who accused the department of trying to stamp out the flourishing medical market by forcing it to align with the more heavily regulated recreational market, which launched in October.

Last week, the office released an updated proposal which, according to the few dozen protestors gathered Wednesday, isn’t much better.

“The Office of Marijuana Policy is looking to try to put most medical caregivers in jeopardy,” said Mark Luce, owner of Bud Green Care in Newport. “It’s overreaching on steroids. We’re trying to reach as many legislators as we can.”

Among other changes, the updated rules would require all independent medical marijuana providers (caregivers), dispensaries and manufacturing facilities to use the state’s inventory tracking system to track all marijuana plants or harvested marijuana from “immature plant” to the point of sale or disposal, according to a copy of the changes.


David Heidrich, spokesperson for the Office of Marijuana Policy, has said tracking “helps ensure that both of our regulated programs have a closed loop,” preventing any illicit product from getting into the legal market, and any legal product from entering the illicit market.

The system was first rolled out for the new recreational market, effectively a blank slate, and now officials plan to introduce it to the medical marijuana program, which has operated without such a system for 20 years.

The proposed rules also would require significantly enhanced security measures, including 24-hour camera surveillance and an alarm system. Camera footage would need to be stored for 30 days.

Initially, the draft required surveillance for caregivers who operate out of their homes, as well.

However, in a letter to providers on March 2, Marijuana Policy Office Director Erik Gundersen said the updated version eliminated that requirement “so as not to infringe on their privacy.”

The office also reduced the video storage requirement to 30 days from the original 45 days to permit “registrants to use off-the-shelf security systems and reduce the costs to comply with these new requirements.”


Still, caregivers worry the requirements, security systems, alarms, track-and-trace and more will be too expensive.

They would “price many of us out of business,” Luce said, and push more people toward the recreational market.

“Storefronts are the only ones that might have a chance,” he said.

Mary DeRose, of Winslow, and Maurice House, of Windsor, are concerned that if the cost for caregivers goes up, the cost of product will go up, too.

DeRose, whose husband is a medical cardholder, said they already pay enough for cannabis, which is significantly less expensive in the medical market than the recreational one.

“If it gets more expensive,” she said, “forget it.”


House, a disabled veteran, said he has been largely priced out of the program and gets cannabis, “the only thing that helps,” “from the streets.”

“I would love to have good, tested product, but it’s too expensive,” he said.

The rules, House argued, would only make it worse.

“They’re killing small growers because they can’t afford all the (baloney),” he said.

The state’s medical marijuana industry, which has more than 3,000 registered caregivers and eight dispensaries, garnered roughly $266 million in sales last year, making cannabis Maine’s most valuable crop

“Our livelihoods are on the line here,” said Dawson Julia, a caregiver based in Unity. “We are going to double down our efforts until our voices are heard.”

Protesters planned to return Thursday. A virtual public hearing on the proposed rule change is scheduled for 9 a.m on March 22.

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