Protecting Maine’s Cannabis Consumers’ President Kevin Kelley is calling for tougher regulations in the state’s medical market. Credit: Submitted

A new cannabis activist group in Maine is calling on the state to revisit new testing and tracking standards for medical cannabis after the state backed away from those efforts earlier this month.

“Protecting Maine’s Cannabis Consumers (PMCC) was formed to give a voice to patients at the legislature and to educate the public about the lack of consumer protections in the medical market,” said President Kevin Kelley. “For too long, PMCC feels that Maine’s legislature has prioritized industry profits over patient safety in the medical marijuana market. Patients need a voice.”

The state’s Office of Marijuana Policy announced that it would revisit medical cannabis regulations this summer after attempts to incorporate mandatory testing and seed tracking were rebuffed by medical patients and medical advocates in the state over the last few months.

Meanwhile, LD 1784, a bill that would require legislative approval of all future proposed regulatory changes to Maine’s medical cannabis program is awaiting a floor vote in the state House.

In contrast to PMCC, the Cannabis Council of Maine, a joint coalition of four cannabis trade groups, applauded the news that OMP would walk back its recommendations. The council was created last August in response to the then-ongoing discussion over medical regulations. The council is composed of members of the Medical Marijuanan Caregivers of Maine, the Maine Growers Alliance, Maine Craft Cannabis Association and the Maine Cannabis Coalition.

“The collaboration and the willingness to work together with the common goal of building a better medical program is what made these meetings and these points of consensus possible,” said Maine Cannabis Coalition President Susan Meehan in a released statement from the larger council. 

Throughout last year, the Office of Marijuana Policy held meetings with its Medical Marijuana Workgroup to craft new regulations for the medical market. The workgroup included 17 members representing the state’s caregiver market, medical dispensaries and manufacturers, medical cannabis patients, healthcare providers, and municipal representatives. 

Following those meetings, the OMP released new recommendations for the medical market that included mandatory testing and plant tracking. Amid the backlash, the OMP tabled the recommendations, which in part, compelled Kelley to launch his organization. 

Kelley said that there were three other members in addition to himself on PMCC’s board. They include Patricia Callahan, a long time medical cannabis patient who worked on the state’s Medical Marijuana Working Group, Scott Gagnon, a substance abuse expert who previously worked on campaigns to oppose adult use legalization in Maine, and former state Senator Roger Katz who chaired the legislatures joint Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee.

“The group is new and, at this time, we are working on building membership,” Kelley noted. “We just announced our organization earlier this month.”

Maine requires lab testing for potency and contaminants for its adult use market. Adult use operators must also track their products through Metrc. Neither requirement applies to medical cannabis. 

“Most patients trust that the state is protecting them,” said Kelley. “They assume that if a business holds a license from the state to sell medicine to people, including children and patients with compromised immune systems, who are using it to treat serious medical conditions such as cancer or Parkinson’s Disease, it is health and safety tested and comes from a trusted source. Unfortunately, that is not true.”

Although there has been pushback from the caregiver community to mandatory testing, at least some patients want to know if their cannabis is safe, according to Greg Newland, Chief Science Officer at Nova Analytic Labs in Portland, Maine. 

In a previous interview with Grown In, he said that although the lab makes most of its money from the adult use market, it has a greater number of customers from the medical market who are voluntarily getting their product tested for at least potency or microbials. 

PMCC is pushing for legislative change, but failing that, the plan to continue to advocate to patients to raise awareness about cannabis testing and how flower or cannabis products can be contaminated. 

“If the legislature is not going do the right thing and pass laws that guarantee that patients have access to safe medical marijuana, patients at least have a right to know that the medicine they are buying could contain dangerous heavy metals, pesticides, molds, toxins, poisons and may not have been produced in the state by a licensed business.”

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...