Maine’s largest cannabis industry business group blasted the state’s proposed regulatory update for adult-use cannabis in a public hearing before the Office of Marijuana Policy on Oct. 18.
“Today we find ourselves a bit frustrated and confused about the goals of the proposed rule,” said consultant Jay Nutter, on behalf of the Maine Cannabis Industry Association (MCIA). “We do not object to a regulated market. We believe a regulated market exists to protect the public and promote a fair playing field for cannabis entrepreneurs. The proposed rules as drafted does not serve either of these goals.”
Earlier this year, Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy proposed an update to the rules and regulations that govern the commercial cannabis industry.
Among the proposed changes, testing labs could open for business with a provisional license, documentation of all operation procedures for cultivators, manufacturers and retailers must be submitted to the state and the state increased the height of what classifies as a “seedling” for the purposes of purchase limits.
The new rules allow customers to return product to retailers, which must then be destroyed, while also increasing the minimum requirements for facility security systems.
Getting into specifics, Nutter said it made “no sense” for the same batch of cannabis to be tested multiple times throughout the manufacturing process.
He also criticized a series of new and existing requirements in the rules that are intended to curb any cannabis products from leaking into the underground market. Those include an increase in required surveillance cameras, the existing policy requiring plastic RFID tags on individual plants in order to track the entire crop, and a new requirement to document and disclose standard operating procedures.
“Standards of procedures are part of the strategic and competitive work product of each license holder putting that info in the public domain threatens competitive advantage in the marketplace,” said Nutter. “The increased requirements also bring a burdensome price tag for producers.”
“The expectation of more security cameras also fails to make diversion less likely. However it does increase cost greatly for cultivators,” said Nutter. “Nearly all license holders are dedicated small business owners trying to find their way in a newly regulated industry.”
Matt Bayliss, founder of cannabis cultivator Gėlė, in South Portland, said was more blunt with his criticism.
“The fact that an 875 square-foot grow requires $21,000 in security cameras and hard drive space is flat out ridiculous,” he said. “We’re going to be strangulated out of the market if things don’t change.”
Bayliss’s company, which is also a member of MCIA, worried that the regulations in place would ensure that only large corporations would have the financial capital to survive all of the state’s requirements for a cannabis industry.
“There appears to be a systemic failure in the process which results in bias and unfairness to smaller, independent Maine businesses operating in the adult-use program,” said Bayliss. “It almost seems intentionally designed to set up independent operators, such as myself, for failure.”
Bayliss and Nutter were the only individuals to offer testimony during the brief hearing. The Office of Maine Policy will continue to accept written testimony until Nov. 7.