A change is gonna come

 In POLITICS

The great Sam Cooke wisely said, “It’s been a long, a long time coming. But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.” Well, friends, that time has come. Over the past year or two, there has been a bit of rabblerousing regarding the rules governing Maine’s medical marijuana program. State officials, and dispensary owners want to see tighter regulations dealt to our caregivers, and our caregivers want to see the type of change that will allow them to grow their business. The beginning of this past November, Maine’s DHHS initially released new rules that will bring much tighter regulation to the medical cannabis industry, sending tremors through the industry. It wasn’t until more recent news was released by the DHHS, that the tremors turned into what seems like a full earthquake.

At the beginning of November, 2017, DHHS released new language regarding the medical cannabis industry. These rules take effect February 1st, 2018. Changes that further define and tighten what a ‘collective’ is, and how caregivers operating under the same roof can run their businesses while remaining compliant. The rules also look to tighten up the rotating patient slot, something which a growing number of caregiver’s have been utilizing, and has been in the cross-hairs for a while now. Another change addresses inspections of caregiver facilities. In the past, this has only been done when there was a complaint filed to the municipality or state, moving forward, there will be ‘no-knock’ inspections, and language for repercussions should the caregiver refuse to open the door. Lawmakers have also taken steps to tighten sale tracking, known as ‘trip tickets’, which has caused some confusion in the industry. Caregivers aren’t yet clear on what this entails.

The Richter scale jumped a few points about 6 weeks later, when DHHS released information stating they would start to crack down on the ever-increasing number of kitchens and laboratories that specialize in creating value added products for Maine’s caregivers (and dispensaries). This includes, but is not limited to, foods (edibles), certain waxes and oils, tinctures, and salves. Manufacturers are being told that if they do not comply, they will face penalties such as losing their license to be a caregiver, or even being referred to law enforcement.

This could have negative impact on both patients and business owners. For the patients, safe and easy access to medicine that offers an alternative to smoking may become hard to find. For business owners, many have invested a great deal of money, some approaching $500,000. These businesses will most likely be out of work until the adult-use market unfolds. The recent changes will only be applied to the medical side of Maine’s cannabis industry, there is language in the adult use bill allowing for manufacturing.

The coming changes are inevitable. Though, it doesn’t make those changes easy – especially not as the cannabis industry leaves the shadows and comes to the limelight. The best thing anyone involved can do is stay informed and active. Patients, caregivers, business owners, and advocates, now is the time to be active. Let your local legislator know how this affects you. Drive to Augusta and take part in the hearings. Listen to the work sessions. Already, public hearings for both the medical program and adult use took place this week. We expect that things are going to move fast. Some of this may be out of our control, but bear in mind, closed mouths don’t get fed.

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