A new group, known as Protect Maine’s Cannabis Consumers, said last week that “it will work to raise public awareness about the Maine medical marijuana industry’s lack of regulations and urge the Legislature to mandate both product testing and so-called track-and-trace requirements, closing what it says is a ‘dangerous loophole,’” according to the Portland Press Herald.
The group is drawing attention to a peculiar disparity between the state’s two cannabis programs. As the Press Herald noted, while the adult-use recreational program, which debuted in 2020, requires tracking and testing, the medical cannabis program, which Maine voters legalized back in 1999, does not.
The president of the advocacy group, Kevin Kelley, said at a press conference on Friday that the inconsistent requirements between the two cannabis programs “defies common sense.”
Those concerns echo what one of the state’s top cannabis officials said last year.
Erik Gundersen, director of the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy, told Maine lawmakers in November that there was persistent illegal activity within the medical cannabis program.
As reported by the Bangor Daily News at the time, Gundersen said his office “has fewer ways to regulate the medical use market than the recreational market for which retail sales started just last year,” and that it “would be helpful if there were tools to ensure that cannabis grown in the medical program stayed within it.”
The newspaper reported that Gundersen believes “there’s more illegal activity connected to the state’s medical marijuana industry and that his office has few tools to prevent medical cannabis from finding its way to the black market.” With only 12 field investigators, Gundersen said his available resources are not “sufficient for performing the necessary level of oversight when the investigators are only getting to registrants every four to five years.”
In August, Gundersen announced the formation of the Marijuana Working Group, which was tasked with making recommendations intended to strengthen the state’s longstanding medical cannabis program.
Gundersen’s office said that the working group would be “composed of at least 16 external members who represent Maine’s medical marijuana industry, cannabis patients, public health system, and towns and cities,” who would “advise on regulatory issues, best practices in patient access and education, contribute to ongoing improvements in Maine’s medical cannabis program.”
The Office of Marijuana Policy said it was seeking “at least five registered caregivers, two registered dispensary representatives, one marijuana testing facility representative, one products manufacturing facility representative, three qualifying patients who are not also registered caregivers, two individuals representing municipalities in Maine, and two relevant health care professionals” to serve on the working group.
“We look forward to the opportunity presented by convening a group of well-qualified individuals in pursuit of a shared goal to both preserve patient access and support the regulated marketplace,” Gundersen said in a press release at the time. “Our vision as a cannabis regulator has always been to develop a good faith partnership with our stakeholders by establishing rules and policies that provide interested consumers with access to a regulated industry.”
But the calls for tougher rules and requirements have been met with resistance from some corners of Maine’s medical cannabis industry.
The Portland Press Herald noted that the industry “has pushed back against testing and tracking requirements for over a year, expressing concerns about the cost, both to the providers and their customers,” most notably a proposed track-and-trace system that cannabis business owners successfully lobbied against in the legislature.