Members of the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy listen to testimony during the Feb. 3, 2022 hearing.

Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) was subjected to over four and a half hours of criticism of the new proposed rules, over Zoom on Thursday, Feb. 3, intended to govern the state’s medical cannabis program.

“I spent a fair amount of time going over this year’s set of rules,” said Evan Sumner, legislative chair for the Maine Growers Alliance. “While smaller in length, it’s not short on overreaching or overburdens and regulations.”

In early 2021, OMP began the rule making process to update the state’s medical cannabis program. Almost immediately, the effort faced opposition from medical operators concerned that the proposed rules would be too burdensome.

“Ultimately many of those changes to the program were delayed by the legislature and OMP convened a medical marijuana working group to advise improvements to the Maine medical program,” said Erik Gundersen, OMP director.

The new 59-page set of rules includes new requirements for tracking seeds and plants, on paper if necessary, security surveillance requirements and new packaging standards.

The medical program was previously updated in early 2018 by the Department of Health and Human Services. Since then, oversight of the program was moved to OMP.

Sumner also argued that the rules update was not justified.

“There’s a lack of data that would require a bevy of regulation that is posing to solve problems that we just don’t see exist,” he said. “We’ve yet to be provided with those problem areas that need fixing nor can we find them through our own research.”

Tammy Smith, who operates a caregiver retail store in Detroit, Maine worried banning caregiver transactions in public places would create a safety hazard for caregivers.

“If you’re delivering to a new person, you’re putting yourself at risk by going to someone’s home that you don’t know,” she said. “That’s why I had always met in a public place before I opened my storefront.”

Steven Robinson argued against a packaging requirement that could make it more difficult for older patients to use.

“Our patients are generally seniors, at least of my patients are seniors,” he said. “Getting jars that are child proof is the last thing that a lot of people want if they have arthritis. They don’t want to get packages that they can’t open.”

Gundersen also regularly found himself having to clarify the new rules, based on misunderstandings from participants, just as new requirements for surveillance which does not affect all caregivers.

“The security requirements now are just for dispensaries in retail stores,” he said.

Dr. Sherman Hom, director of regulatory affairs for Medicinal Genomics, which manufactures test kits to detect microbials in cannabis, said that he was concerned that four of the five tests that Maine allows for testing cannabis only detect microbial counts without distinguishing between harmless and harmful bacteria. He was also surprised to learn that those tests were only required in Maine’s adult-use market.

“That is very interesting to me because some of the patients are severely immuno-compromised, that is something that I hope the Maine legislature rectifies as soon as possible,” said Hom.

Vern Malloch, director of operations for OMP further clarified that the only instance when a medical operator is expected to test their product is to support any claims of the product’s potency.

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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...