LD 1242, An Act To Ensure Appropriate Oversight of Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program, gives the Legislature, patients and entrepreneurs their seat at the table
AUGUSTA – LD 1242, An Act To Ensure Appropriate Oversight of Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program is now Maine law. After passing the State House and Senate with broad bipartisan support as an emergency measure, it is set to take effect immediately. With this new law in place, Maine’s medical marijuana program, one of the state’s largest and most dynamic industries, continues to set a national example for small business formation, innovation and patient satisfaction.
LD 1242 protects the appropriate role of the Legislature in Maine’s developing medical cannabis landscape and ensures stakeholder input from patients, cannabis focused health care providers and medical marijuana small business owners to shape their own successful program.
The bill protects patients and caregivers from administrative overreach and crippling regulatory burdens by requiring a reset of the Office of Marijuana Policy’s Proposed Rulemaking and halting the imposition of a burdensome, mandatory, out-of-state tracking system.
“The working class of farmers, patients, caregivers, scientists, and so many others have built this industry up to a success story of national renown,” said Arleigh Kraus, a registered cannabis farmer and caregiver from Warren and founding member of the Maine Craft Cannabis Association, which initiated the legislation. “The passage of LD 1242 prevents corporate regulatory capture — providing the small farmers, store owners and patients with a chance to craft industry rules that work for the people of Maine. The overwhelming support from legislators from around the state made this possible and we couldn’t be more grateful.”
Rep. Lynne Williams (D-Bar Harbor), an experienced attorney and first-term legislator, sponsored the legislation and highlighted the legal foundation for this approach. “This bill ensures that the Medical Use of Marijuana Program’s rules are given the deeper consideration they deserve as major substantive rules,” she said. “This Program is of profound importance to tens of thousands of patients, thousands of businesses and their employees and the state as a whole, so it is imperative that the Office of Marijuana Policy is required to bring major rules changes to the legislature – just like other agencies must do.” Added Williams, “To know that my fellow legislators, on both sides of the aisle, agreed with me displayed that bipartisan cooperation in the House and Senate is very possible.”
Rep. Williams’ concerns about the role of the Legislature in rulemaking were echoed by Sen. Craig Hickman (D-Winthrop), a co-sponsor of the bill and an organic farmer. A longtime outspoken defender of patient access to cannabis and of fair representation for Maine’s small farmers, Hickman said, “Maine’s medical cannabis patients and cannabis farmers represent decades of experience in dealing with the therapeutic use of cannabis. It behooves us as a Legislature to more deeply seek their input into how best to shape and strengthen this program for the benefit of the Maine people and rural economic development.”
Mark Barnett, founder and Chair of the Maine Craft Cannabis Association and owner of Higher Grounds in the Old Port, emphasized the high stakes of these policy decisions. “When the needs and business interests of the largest industry participants are reflected in the standards for regulation for all players, it can lead to regulatory capture, especially in a system still so shaped by the failed War on Drugs,” said Barnett. “This legislation ensures policymakers hear and respond to the needs of all stakeholders in this state. It is vital to the long-term survival of this industry to reject the overregulated industrial model that has forced small business out of nearly all other state cannabis programs. Maine can truly lead the way and set a national example for how best to grow this promising and vital new economy.”
Representative Patrick Corey (R-Windham), a member of the committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs, has been a vocal supporter of LD 1242 and the vital role of the Legislature and industry participants. “If we do not put thought and care into the acceptance and implementation of these rules, we stand the chance of shuttering hundreds of small Maine cannabis businesses. We could lose our medical cannabis program and even expand the unregulated market,” said Corey. “Given that this regulation has the potential to negatively affect so many Mainers, wouldn’t we want to make sure the proposed rules work? This law will allow businesses to flourish, protect Maine’s people and craft a program based on research and evidence.”
“The success of Maine’s marijuana industry has been accomplished through the hard work and commitment of small, independent farmers around the state engaged in our 22 year-old Medical Marijuana Program,” said Alysia Melnick, attorney and lobbyist for the Maine Craft Cannabis Association. “We are deeply appreciative of state lawmakers for once again working to protect patients and small businesses through reasonable regulation of this industry.”
Marijuana has become Maine’s most valuable cash crop, with medical marijuana generating the bulk of revenue. This thriving industry provides more than 7,000 direct jobs, thousands more ancillary jobs and generates tremendous revenue to the state. This growth has occurred without assistance from the federal government, as cannabis businesses are precluded from accessing federal programs like the Paycheck Protection Program, the earned income credit and even FDIC banking privileges.
As an emergency measure passed with two-thirds support, LD 1242 goes into effect immediately at the adjournment of the current legislative session.