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New Bill Would Scrap Controversial Changes To Maine Medical Marijuana Program

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press

A controversial proposal to overhaul the state’s medical marijuana rules is now in danger of being scrapped, after a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced an emergency bill that would effectively turn back the clock on those rules.

State regulators have proposed the new rules, which run to 80 pages and are meant to align the medical program with recent changes in state law. Under them, cannabis caregivers would have to run 24-7 security cameras at some of their facilities and track their products across the supply chain, among many other changes.

But many growers opposed the new rules during a public hearing last week, arguing that they would be cost-prohibitive and burdensome for small operations and their patients.

Now, a bill introduced by Representative Lynne Williams, a Bar Harbor Democrat, would effectively block changes to the state’s medical marijuana rules that took effect after Feb. 1, 2018. LD 1242 would reclassify those kinds of changes as so substantive and major that they require legislative approval to be passed.

Williams — a lawyer who has represented medical marijuana caregivers as part of her private practice — said that the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy has overstepped existing law by proposing such major changes.

A spokesperson for the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy said the agency has reviewed the legislation and will comment on it when it gets to a public hearing in the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee.

The agency has previously said that it is working to align the medical marijuana rules with changes in state law that have been made since 2018. It has made revisions in the proposed rules that it says would make them more manageable for small operations, such as exempting caregivers' dwelling spaces from the video camera requirements.

A spokesperson for the agency also said that claims the new tracking requirements would be too costly for small caregivers to implement may be "overstated." She said it would cost each caregiver $480 per year for the necessary software, plus $13.50 for every 30 plants that need a special electronic tracking tag.

Williams’ bill has a diverse group of co-sponsors, including five Democrats, four Republicans and a Libertarian, all representing a combined eight counties.

The group includes legislative leaders from both parties and two members of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee: Sen. Craig Hickman, a Democrat from Kennebec County, and Sen. Bradlee Farrin, a Republican from Somerset County.

Corrected: March 30, 2021 at 11:53 AM EDT
An original version of this article included a quotation indicating that proposed new rules from the Office of Marijuana Policy would require medical marijuana caregivers to set up security cameras in their dwelling spaces. The office has exempted dwelling spaces from its proposed video camera requirement.