Medical marijuana providers in the state defended several bills Monday that would further curtail proposed regulations the industry has been fighting for two years. 

The Maine Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee heard several hours of testimony in support of a series of bills that providers, known in the industry as caregivers, said would protect their businesses and patients from a number of changes they call overburdensome, costly and bad for consumers. 

Among other changes, the bills would require legislative approval before the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy could implement any new rules, and prevent the office from mandating a specific product tracking system or testing requirement.

The bills would establish guardrails prohibiting some of the more “egregious” of the state’s proposed rules, said Alysia Melnick, an attorney representing the Maine Craft Cannabis Association.

If the bills are passed, she said, “you will hear a huge collective sigh of relief across the state.”

In January 2021, the Office of Marijuana Policy released a draft of rule changes to the medical program that officials said were “meant to align the program with state law.”


Among other proposed changes such as strict security and surveillance measures, the now-dead proposal would have required all registered medical cannabis caregivers, dispensaries and manufacturing facilities to implement a “seed-to-sale” product tracking system called Metrc, currently used in Maine’s adult-use cannabis program. Its purpose is to keep illicit products out of the legal market, and legal products from ending up on the black market.

Following the outcry over last year’s proposal, industry members brought the issue to the Legislature, which approved L.D. 1242, a law overhauling the medical marijuana rulemaking process and halting implementation of the then-proposed rules. Any major rule changes are now required to go before the Legislature. 

The office released a scaled-back set of proposed rules earlier this month, which industry members characterized as just a shorter version of rules they successfully fought off last year.

The most recent proposal again includes product tracking and other security requirements that industry members had already condemned as labor-intensive and cost-prohibitive. Still, the new proposal does not specify that the Metrc tracking system must be used.

Two of the bills discussed Monday, L.D.s 1928 and 1948, aim to address some of those concerns, while the third, L.D. 1784, would simply prevent any rulemaking from being implemented without legislative review.

L.D. 1928 would prohibit the department from mandating any one online tracking system, while L.D. 1948 favors a less comprehensive tracking system similar to the one used in the produce industry. The latter proposal would still allow for traceability in the event of a public health issue, supporters said, but it would not involve the same onerous requirements such as keeping a daily log that tracks each plant.


Many caregivers also supported adding a requirement that any untested product must be labeled as such, in lieu of a product testing requirement. Testing is currently required in the adult-use cannabis market, but not the medical one.

Both bills would also require that regulators compile a monthly report of sales and tax data, also currently required for adult-use, but not medical. 

However, Erik Gundersen, director of the Office of Marijuana Policy, argued that information can’t reasonably be tracked without a standardized, statewide electronic tracking portal. 

Many of the changes proposed in the new rules are required by state statute, said Anya Trundy, director of legislative affairs for the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which oversees the policy office. The Legislature would need to address those statutes before the office could present rules that aren’t allowed by statute, she said.

L.D. 1928 would also require that the department evaluate how any provisionally adopted rules “sought to minimize economic burdens on small businesses.” 

A similar stipulation was included in last year’s regulatory overhaul bill. It requires that before implementing a statewide electronic portal for caregiver businesses, the office must study the economic effects that any new rules or changes might have, and how they might impact patient access to medical marijuana. 

Such a report has not yet been drafted, and marijuana policy officials were unable to say Monday when that process might begin. 

The state’s medical marijuana program consists of 13 dispensaries, approximately 3,000 registered caregivers and more than 100,000 qualifying patients. In 2020, medical marijuana sales totaled approximately $290 million, according to a recent report from the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy. More recent figures were not immediately available.

The committee will discuss the bills further at an upcoming work session that has yet to be scheduled.

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