The long-awaited effective date of a sweeping medical marijuana reform bill arrives Thursday, December 13, and will bring about numerous changes to the legal rights and responsibilities of Maine medical marijuana patients, caregivers, and others. The reform bill, LD 1539, passed on July 9, 2018 when the legislature overrode Governor Paul LePage’s veto; however, as non-emergency legislation, the law could not take effect until 90 days following the end of the session in which it was passed.
When the law takes effect December 13, 90 days after the end of the session, it will bring with it numerous, substantial changes to the permitted conduct of Maine caregivers and patients under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act. This blog post will discuss some of those important changes.
Changes for Caregivers
Caregivers will enjoy some of the most significant improvements implemented by the new law. Starting on the effective date, caregivers will enjoy the right to:
Serve patients without completing a patient designation form or taking the patient designation card, because patients will no longer be required to designate a caregiver.
Note: Caregivers should still verify patient status by checking the patient’s valid, unexpired patient certification card.
Caregivers will be limited to selling no more than 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis to a patient in a single transaction. Visiting patients are limited to receiving up to 2.5 ounces in a 15-day period.
Cultivate up to 30 flowering and 60 vegetative plants, regardless of how many patients the caregiver serves (in addition to cultivating 6 flowering and 12 vegetative plants if the caregiver is also a patient, for the caregiver/patient’s own medical use, and in addition to cultivating 3 flowering and 12 vegetative adult-use plants)
Possess all of the cannabis the caregiver’s plants produce, regardless of the state of the medical cannabis. Previously, caregivers were limited to possessing 2.5 ounces of prepared cannabis per patient, and up to 8 pounds of “incidental” cannabis per patient that needed further processing. After LD 1539 takes effect, caregivers will be entitled to possess all the cannabis their medical marijuana plants produce.
Sell medical cannabis and plants to, and purchase them from other caregivers and dispensaries in wholesale transactions, subject to certain limits. Previously, caregivers were not permitted to accept compensation for any excess medical cannabis donated to other caregivers. Under LD 1539, caregivers will be able to sell or donate up to 30% of the mature cannabis plants the caregiver grows in a calendar year, including any harvested cannabis, cannabis products, or concentrates manufactured from that 30%.
Caregivers may sell or transfer an unlimited amount of immature plants or seedlings to another caregiver or dispensary.
Mature plants, cannabis products, or concentrate obtained at wholesale may not be resold to anyone other than a qualifying patient or another caregiver or dispensary.
Note: A caregiver purchasing plants or cannabis at wholesale must pay sales tax at the time of purchase, unless the caregiver presents a valid Maine resale certificate to the supplier, and charges sales tax at the time of resale.
Obtain cannabis products and concentrate from a manufacturing facility. A caregiver is permitted to supply harvested cannabis to a manufacturing facility licensed under LD 238, and in return, obtain marijuana products and marijuana concentrate from the manufacturing facility made from the caregiver’s harvested cannabis.
A caregiver may still process his or her own cannabis products, edibles (with a food establishment license), and concentrates, so long as the caregiver does not use any inherently hazardous substances, such as butane, without a manufacturing license issued under LD 238.
Register unlimited assistants who may assist the caregiver with his or her plants and harvested medicine, and serve the caregiver’s patients. Previously, caregivers were limited to registering one employee with the Department. After the new law takes effect, caregivers will be able to register unlimited employees, now called “assistants,” with the Department.
Note: Employment laws dealing with workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and taxes still apply to caregiver employees.
Operate one retail medical marijuana caregiver store. Previously, caregiver retail stores operated in a legal gray area. Under LD 1539, caregivers will be explicitly permitted to operate one retail store to sell medical cannabis to qualifying patients.
Note: LD 1539 introduces a caregiver store “opt-in” provision for Maine municipalities. If a city or town has not passed an ordinance by December 13, 2018, the city or town cannot authorize a new caregiver store after that date until the municipality passes an ordinance allowing such stores. If a caregiver store is not already operating with municipal approval on December 13, it cannot begin operation until after the municipality “opts in” to allow caregiver stores by passing an ordinance.
Be organized as any type of legal entity. Maine law now explicitly permits caregivers to organize as an LLC, corporation, or other type of legal entity.
Changes for Patients
Under LD 1539, patients will be able to:
Obtain medical cannabis from a caregiver without designating the caregiver. Previously, a patient was required to provide his or her designation card and completed designation form to obtain medical cannabis from a caregiver. Under the new law, qualifying patients will be able to obtain up to 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis in a single transaction from a caregiver, without designating a caregiver. Visiting patients will be limited to receiving up to 2.5 ounces every 15 days.
Possess up to 8 pounds of harvested medical marijuana, in any form. Previously, patients were entitled to possess 2.5 ounces of prepared cannabis and up to 8 pounds of “incidental” cannabis that needed further processing. Under the new law, patients will be able to possess 8 pounds of harvested cannabis, regardless of what stage of processing it is in.
Designate a caregiver to grow up to six flowering and 12 vegetative plants. While a patient will not be required to designate a caregiver under the new law, a patient may still designate a caregiver to cultivate plants for the patient under LD 1539. Of course, a patient may still cultivate up to six flowering and 12 vegetative plants for him- or herself, in addition to any adult use plants that a patient over 21 may cultivate.
Accept medical cannabis plants, not just harvested cannabis and cannabis products, from another patient, a caregiver, or dispensary for no compensation. Previously, the law was silent regarding transfers of medical cannabis plants. The new law will provide that patients may accept medical cannabis plants from a patient, caregiver, or dispensary for no compensation.
Obtain cannabis products and concentrate from a manufacturing facility. A patient is permitted to supply harvested cannabis to a manufacturing facility licensed under LD 238, and in return, obtain marijuana products and marijuana concentrate from the manufacturing facility made from the patient’s harvested cannabis.
A patient may still process his or her own cannabis products, edibles (with a food establishment license), and concentrates, so long as the patient does not use any inherently hazardous substances, such as butane, without a manufacturing license issued under LD 238.
Changes to Record-Keeping and Tracking
In addition to the above changes, the new law will impose new record-keeping requirements caregivers and dispensaries. Caregivers and dispensaries must:
Keep a record of each transfer of plants or harvested cannabis
Keep all books and records for at least seven years
Complete an annual audit of all business transactions by a third-party
Make all books and records available to inspection by the Department upon the Department's demand.
Accompany all transported plants and harvested cannabis with a labelthat identifies:
(1) The person transferring the marijuana plants or harvested marijuana, including the person's registry identification number;
(2) The person receiving the marijuana plants or harvested marijuana, including the person's registry identification number or, if the person is not required to register under this chapter, a unique identifier assigned to the person;
(3) A description of the marijuana plants or harvested marijuana being transferred, including the amount and form;
(4) The time and date of the transfer; and
(5) The destination of the marijuana plants or harvested marijuana.
Additional Dispensary Licenses Available
In addition to the above changes for patients and caregivers, the new law provides that the Department will issue an additional six dispensary licenses to qualified applicants. The qualifications for the new licenses will be set by the Department rule, after it completes the rulemaking process. No dispensary licenses will be available until after the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS) has finalized new rules to implement LD 1539. The date on which DAFS will begin or complete rulemaking is currently unknown.
These are some of the most important changes that will be introduced by LD 1539 on Thursday, December 13. The new law introduces a number of very positive changes for both patients and caregivers, as well as some additional responsibilities. All participants in Maine’s medical marijuana program must continue to take care to ensure they comply fully with Maine law, or risk administrative penalties and criminal charges.
If you have any questions regarding what the new law means for you, you should contact an attorney.
Note: This blog post is not, and cannot replace actual legal advice. For information regarding how Maine and federal law apply to a specific situation, consult an attorney.