Local Maine Caregivers Make Desperate Plea For Help; "We Have 48 Hours To Save Our Medical Program From New Rules That Would Destroy Our Industry Simply To Protect Profits For Big Cannabis."

First published: 8:38PM Eastern Daylight Time, 5/19/2021

Screenshot; Maine Veterans And Legal Affairs Committee - YouTube.


Reports from Maine this evening indicate that the fate of the state's nearly 3,000+ strong network of grassroots mom and pop cannabis caregivers will be decided on Friday (5/20/2021), as a key legislative committee is scheduled to vote on a bill
(LD.1242) that would pause proposed changes existing medical cannabis rules overseen by the Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP).

In the lead up to the hearing grassroots advocates are pleading with supporters and members of the public to reach out to members of Maine's Veterans and Legals Affairs Committee to ask them to vote in support of HD. 1242 this week.

Local caregivers in Maine have been fighting against giant corporate operators, such as Curaleaf, who have openly testified (via attorneys) on multiple occasions against bill LD.1242. That MSO's such as Curaleaf would openly use their deep pockets to lobby against a bill like LD. 1242, apparently because less medical caregivers in Maine would mean more profits for corporate operators in the state, reflects the very worst form or corporate greed.

Making those calls tomorrow, Thursday May 20th, is thus of particular importance and, as such, a list of the members of Maine's VLA committee, and their contact information, is below.

Please remember, if you will be reaching out to express your support of LD.1242 and asking the Senator or Representative to vote in favor of the bill at the VLA Committee this week, to be cordial and respectful. At least 5 of the members of the Committee may already support the legislation, and winning over the final 2 votes needed for passage will come down to diplomacy and authenticity.

Senator Louis Luchini - Chair

Phone: N/A, e-mail: Louis.Luchini@legislature.maine.gov

Senator Brad Farrin

Phone: N/A, e-mail: Bradlee.Farrin@legislature.maine.gov

Senator Craig Hickman (supporter of LD.1242)

Phone: N/A, e-mail: Craig.Hickman@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Chris Caiazzo - Chair

Phone: N/A, e-mail: Christopher.Caiazzo@Legislature.Maine.gov

Representative Patrick Corey (supporter of LD.1242)

Phone: N/A, e-mail: Patrick.Corey@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Josanne Dolloff

Phone: N/A, e-mail: Josanne.Dolloff@Legislature.Maine.gov

Representative Matthew Harrington

Phone: N/A, e-mail: Matthew.Harrington@legislature.maine.gov

Representative MaryAnne Kinney

Phone: 2075687577, e-mail: MaryAnne.Kinney@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Jay McCreight (supporter of LD.1242)

Phone: 2074493293, e-mail: Jay.McCreight@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Morgan Rielly

Phone: N/A, e-mail: Morgan.Rielly@Legislature.Maine.gov

Representative Laura Supica (supporter of LD.1242)

Phone: N/A, e-mail: Laura.Supica@Legislature.Maine.gov

Representative John Tuttle (supporter of LD.1242)

Phone: 207-324-5964, e-mail: John.Tuttle@legislature.maine.gov

Representative Barbara Wood

Phone: N/A, e-mail: Barbara.Wood@Legislature.Maine.gov

Those proposed rule changes being pushed by OMP, local caregivers say, would shut down over 80% of existing mom and pop operators in Maine, in turn leading to catastrophic job losses and a substantial decrease in access to reasonably priced cannabis medicine for the most vulnerable patients in the state.

In an emotional day of testimony on bill HB. 1242 last month, compounded by the agonizing absence of longtime grassroots activist
Dawson Julia, Maine's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee heard over nine hours of public input on the proposed bill to put a halt to that controversial update to the existing medical cannabis rules in the state.

Julia, the first owner of a medical cannabis caregiver store in Maine and an integral voice in the state's expansive advocacy community for over a decade,
is fighting for his life in a Miami-area hospital following a tragic moped accident two weeks ago -- leading lawmakers and members of the public alike to express emotional well wishes and tributes throughout the day's proceedings.

The primary bill under consideration,
LD.1242, has the support of at least 5 lawmakers on the Committee (out of 7 votes needed for passage), and local caregivers are imploring supports to contact members of the committee over the next two days to express their support.

The new rule being proposed by OMP,
have met with ferocious backlash from the state's 3,500+ strong network of mom and pop medical cannabis caregivers (including Julia himself) who say the changes favored by OMP officials would shut down over 80% of their ranks.

Not only was the process used by OMP to solicit input on those new rules fundamentally broken, charge advocates, but the rules themselves pose huge challenges to smaller operators.

Arleigh Kraus, a registered caregiver from Warren, Maine and a member of the Maine Craft Cannabis Association, told me last month that she felt the process used to draft the new proposed rules was fundamentally unfair and that lawmakers were left with no choice but to put a temporary pause on the rulemaking process to avoid the wanton destruction of a thriving local cottage industry that employs tends of thousands of Mainers.

""I do not think the rule making process has been fair whatsoever. To overload people in the industry with a bunch of rule changes which are clearly not routine technical changes and then to put the burden on us to tease out the economic foundation for these rules, while getting nothing from the department...is deeply concerning."

Some caregivers, in recent months, have said openly that those new regulatory burdens would put them out of business.

Donald Gardner, a local caregiver from Knox County, Maine, told the OMP in testimony last month that "the over intensity of these proposed regulations" would "hinder the very existence" of his small business.

"I cannot emphasize the word over-burdensome enough", said Gardner in an impassioned voice, "[these proposed regulations] will be the end of my business. It is that simple. And I won't be the only one. I am genuinely terrified of these new changes. I simply won't be able to do this anymore if you pass these regulations and I will be in the unemployment line".

Among other changes, the updated rules would "require all registered medical cannabis caregivers, dispensaries and manufacturing facilities to implement a “seed-to-sale” or “track-and-trace” system" along with expensive security measures, including 24-hour camera surveillance and an alarm system for every provider. Surveillance data must be stored for 30 days."

Normally the financial impact of such rule changes on local cities and towns, along with their impact on small business (who employ less than 20 people), would need to be made public prior to any public hearings -- something that was not done in the case of the OMP process here.

The lack of that "fiscal impact note", say local advocates, is more than reason enough for lawmakers to mandate OMP re-do their rule making process and, this time, ensure a specific focus is put on ensuring input from local Maine residents when those rules are drafted.

OMP, for its part, told lawmakers at Friday's hearing that the fiscal impact note "would be published" before the new rules were made final.

That answer, however, did not seem to satisfy some on the Committee or members of the public -- who noted in a series of remarks that the inclusion of that fiscal impact note is not optional and must occur before any public hearing can occur on a new rule from any Maine agency (including OMP).

Title 5, Part 18, Chapter 375 §8063 of the Maine Administrative Procedure Act, indeed, requires that "[e]very rule proposed by an agency must contain a fiscal impact note at the end of the rule. The note must be placed on the rule prior to any public hearing..."

Opponents of the two bills (numbering only about a handful but, included among them, was an attorney for 11 billion dollar MSO Curaleaf) told lawmakers the existing OMP process was "fair" , reflected "good governance" and that lawmakers should, under no circumstances, mandate that the rule-making process be restarted to include more input from local stakeholders. Those stakeholders, opponents explained, had the chance to weigh in at OMP's public hearings and, thus, did not need to be included in the initial drafting process of the new rules.