Yesterday the legislature passed LD 1539 and 238, two bills that will make numerous and largely positive changes to the Maine medical marijuana program. However, early this morning the Senate voted told hold the bills over until the next special session, which may be scheduled sometime in the next two weeks. At that time the bills will need to return to the House and Senate for approval, and then move on to the governor who will either veto, sign, or allow the bill to pass without his signature. If he vetoes the bill, there may be enough support in the House and Senate to override the veto.
Dubois Law will be following these bills closely, and will issue another update when the bills receive a final disposition.
In the meantime, here is a brief summary of the significant changes the bills would make to the medical marijuana program:
LD 1539 (Makes a number of major changes, including eliminating the caregiver patient and employee caps, allowing caregivers to sell cannabis to each other, eliminating the per-patient limit on harvested medicine, and much more)
Eliminates the list of debilitating medical conditions for which a medical provider may provide a written certification and instead allows a medical provider to certify use to patients who have a medical diagnosis that may be alleviated by the therapeutic or palliative use of marijuana;
Eliminates the requirement that qualifying patients designate a primary caregiver or dispensary as the sole provider of cultivation services or medical marijuana;
Increases the possession limit in law for qualifying patients and unregistered caregivers from 2.5 ounces to 8 pounds, which was the amount previously authorized in rules adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services;
Increases the possession limit for registered caregivers and dispensaries from an amount based on the number of patients who have designated the registered caregiver or dispensary to the amount that the registered caregiver or dispensary cultivated or otherwise lawfully acquired;
Allows registered caregivers and dispensaries to sell up to 30% of the marijuana the registered caregiver or dispensary cultivated to another registered caregiver or dispensary in wholesale transactions;
Authorizes qualifying patients, caregivers and dispensaries to manufacture marijuana products as long as certain substances that are considered hazardous are not used;
Authorizes qualifying patients, caregivers and dispensaries to produce marijuana concentrate using substances that are considered hazardous if certain safety and inspection requirements are met;
Establishes a registration process for persons and entities that are not qualifying patients, caregivers or dispensaries to manufacture marijuana products and to engage in marijuana extraction using substances that are considered hazardous if certain safety and inspection requirements are met;
Expands the authorization of a qualifying patient to use medical marijuana in certain assisted living and residential care facilities, in addition to hospice and nursing facilities, as long as that use is consistent with the facility's policy;
Allows medical marijuana testing facilities to operate in the absence of rules adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services if the facilities meet certain standards;
Establishes packaging, labeling and marketing requirements for the sale of medical marijuana;
Requires registered caregivers, dispensaries, marijuana testing facilities and manufacturing facilities to track marijuana within the medical marijuana program from seeds to final user;
Requires registered caregivers, dispensaries, marijuana testing facilities and manufacturing facilities to maintain books and records and allows the Department of Health and Human Services to inspect those books and records;
Establishes additional authority for the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee medical marijuana-related activities, including the authority to inspect registered caregiver operations, dispensaries, marijuana testing facilities and manufacturing facilities during regular business hours or hours of apparent activity without notice, except that the department may not enter the dwelling unit of a registered caregiver to undertake an inspection if the caregiver is not present;
Requires that records containing patient information be kept in a manner that does not allow identification of the patient or be kept confidential;
Directs the Department of Health and Human Services to issue 6 registration certificates to dispensaries, in addition to the 8 dispensaries existing on April 1, 2018, to different entities, except that an existing dispensary may be awarded one additional registration certificate if its application is approved by the department;
Prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from limiting the number of dispensary registration certificates issued after January 1, 2021;
Removes the requirement in current law that a dispensary must operate as a nonprofit business entity;
Clarifies that municipalities may regulate registered caregivers, registered dispensaries, medical marijuana manufacturing facilities and marijuana testing facilities, except that municipalities may not prohibit or limit the number of registered caregivers; and
Establishes a grant program to support objective scientific research funded by revenue from the Medical Use of Marijuana Fund and requires the Department of Health and Human Services to adopt rules to implement the grant program by March 1, 2019.
The amendment also allows businesses that are not permitted to deduct business expenses under federal law due to the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986, Section 280E to deduct business expenses to the same extent as if those expenses were not excluded from deduction for federal tax purposes and requires the cost of these deductions, as well as the cost of administering these deductions, to be paid from the Medical Use of Marijuana Fund, to the extent that funds are available in the fund for those purposes.
LD 238 (Creates a new type of manufacturing license to permit processing and sale of medical cannabis concentrates, extracts, edibles, and other products)
Allows a facility that tests medical marijuana samples for the cannabinoid profile, potency and contaminants to operate in the absence of rules adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services if the facility has obtained documentation of the facility's accreditation pursuant to standard ISO/IEC 17025 of the International Organization for Standardization by a 3rd-party accrediting body;
Clarifies that qualifying patients, primary caregivers and registered dispensaries may manufacture marijuana products from harvested marijuana, including production of marijuana concentrate by processes of marijuana extraction that do not involve certain inherently hazardous substances;
Establishes a process for persons or entities that are not qualifying patients, primary caregivers or registered dispensaries to manufacture marijuana products from harvested marijuana, including marijuana concentrate by processes of marijuana extraction that do not involve certain inherently hazardous substances, to become registered to manufacture marijuana products;
Establishes a method for qualifying patients, primary caregivers and registered dispensaries to become authorized by law to produce marijuana concentrate by processes involving inherently hazardous substances if certain safety and compliance standards are met;
Establishes a process for persons or entities that are not qualifying patients, registered caregivers or registered dispensaries to become authorized to produce marijuana concentrate by processes involving inherently hazardous substances; and
Repeals specific provisions of law regarding municipal authority to establish a moratorium on registered primary caregivers near schools and municipal authority to regulate dispensaries. The amendment instead enacts a new provision of law that allows municipalities to regulate registered primary caregivers, registered dispensaries, marijuana testing facilities and marijuana manufacturing facilities, except that municipalities are not allowed to prohibit or limit the number of registered primary caregivers.
Watch this blog for another update to be issued when the bills ultimately pass or fail.