Maine’s medical marijuana workgroup soundly rejected medical cannabis tracking from METRC, condemning the company as a “data-selling conglomerate.” This came as the group settled on its comprehensive list of recommended regulatory changes, at its Dec. 14 meeting.
That meeting was the group’s fifth and final one, but the group may not quite be ready to submit its official report on changes to the state’s medical cannabis laws by Jan. 3 since it held a previously-unplanned fifth meeting.
The group was unable to agree as to whether or not the state should mandate testing for medical cannabis, the group did agree to support mandatory labeling that would denote whether or not the product had been lab tested.
“I believe that transparency and labeling is an important consumer tool in any industry whether I go to the grocery store and I want to buy the cheapest produce or I choose to buy the organic product,” said Susan Meehan.
The workgroup was originally scheduled to meet four times, but last month, the group decided to hold a fifth meeting in December after failing to come to a consensus on mandatory testing. That meant the group has less than a month before it is supposed to submit its report to the legislature on Jan. 3 in order to implement the changes to the medical cannabis program.
The group rejected the proposal to require the use of seed-to-sale tracking system Metrc to track cannabis in the medical program.
“Metrc is an international data-harvesting, data-selling conglomerate and I will never agree to signing Maine medical up to Metrc in any way shape, form or size,” said Susan Meehan, chairperson of the Maine Cannabis Coalition.
Gundersen said that even without direct tracking of pants, the state would still have to devise a method to at least verify testing results. The workgroup seemed more agreeable to this proposal, but no vote was formally taken.
Maine, as well as Massachusetts, already uses the services of METRC to track its adult-use market.
Finally, the group agreed on a recommendation that would allow the Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) to share information with municipalities about local caregiver registrants, including their address, but only if those addresses are for commercial properties. Caregivers are permitted to grow plants in their own home, and in those cases, the address would not be shared with the local municipality.
“The problem being is a lot of people are putting up commercial grows and commerce and even retail stores without going through any of the town authorities either they just don’t know that it’s required or they’re trying to skirt it,” said Catherine Lewis, chair of the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine.
Gundersen said that the OMP would likely need additional time to complete their report for the legislature. This would allow additional time for the individual workgroup members to see the final report and approve it before it is submitted.
Gundersen said that he expects the legislature to review the recommendations and vote to approve by April 2022. During that process, the legislature could decide whether the rules go into effect immediately or 90 days after the approval. Medical cannabis operators would then also have an additional 90 “grace period” to help facilitate their compliance.
“You would have that lead time if those changes affect you,” said Gundersen. “We understand that a caregiver, or dispensary operator can’t just snap their fingers and come into compliance.”
“We want to make sure that what gets presented is the best that we can do,” said work group member Julie Milliken.