Thursday, February 25, 2021
Office of Marijuana Policy Update

Photography by Matthew Bourgeois

Office of Marijuana Policy Update

This is an important call to action to contact the Office of Marijuana Policy and your legislators to let them know what is going on at the “rule level” of Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program. On January 4th, a letter with links to an 80 page draft was emailed to some stakeholders in the program. Here is where you can read the Draft Rules:http://bit.ly/OMP_Draft Note that the process put forth by OMP indicates that they create a Preliminary DRAFT (1/4/2021), listen for comment over the course of a week (1/10/2021), edit the Draft based on these comments, put forth an official DRAFT and schedule a Public Hearing. 

 

Changes that will impact patient-healthcare provider relationship: 

 

These draft rules propose that pediatric patients must fit a new list developed by the Office of Marijuana Policy. The list of “approved conditions” is: Epilepsy, Cancer, Developmental Disability, Intellectual Disability. This does not encompass the majority of our pediatric patient conditions. The woefully inadequate list (applicable only to patients under age of 18) does not include Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger’s, spasticity, chronic pain, migraine, ADHD, Anxiety, inflammation related diseases such as Lyme, nor any other physician noted conditions that cannabis is known to resolve. As with adults, medical treatments for our kids belong between healthcare provider and patient and parent. We request that these rules reflect our statutes that place these decisions in the correct place between doctor and patient and parent. There is no need for a list that is subject to a politically driven committee fed information by lobbyists with ulterior motives. Patients, especially pediatric patients, have a relationship with their providers that cannot be replaced by an inadequate committee-generated list of conditions.

 

Section C(page 17) of the Draft states that an examination by a non-primary care provider must occur at a “Permanent location that is clinically appropriate for conducting medical services and that enables the patient to return for follow up, consultation or assistance, as needed, “ but Section D indicates that remote healthcare services (in our remote and rural Maine state and where telemedicine is widely used) is not prohibited. Which is it? Telemedicine is the current situation for many families who are impacted by COVID and government limitations and restrictions. There should be no requirement of a permanent physical location or visit that impedes patient access.

 

This Draft also limits locations and virtual avenues by which a doctor can establish and maintain a doctor-patient relationship. With the current events and that these children are often medically fragile, patients are far safer at home and meeting a doctor via a phone or video conference method when they choose. Let our doctors decide how they best can serve their patients and keep themselves and their families safe as well. 

 

Changes that will impact many of the small, artisan caregivers who serve many of our patients: 

 

The security parameters, alarm requirements, camera requirements, barricade fencing are expensive and excessive. This is excessive and seems to generate income for security companies while placing small caregivers at risk of incompliance and losing their ability to serve their patients. 

 

This draft virtually eliminates caregivers without a storefront and indicate an inability to do business without a storefront. By this draft, a caregiver cannot provide clones or plants to patients without operating a retail storefront location. Additionally, with the Draft language, caregivers cannot operate a caregiver business out of their home and remain in compliance without every person (including children) in the home being a registered card holder in the department. Visitors to the property would also be subject to search as the caregiver could not allow visitors or patients to be on property with cannabis brought to the property from another source. 

 

The draft offers a tidbit of lesser compliance to a caregiver who can follow limited rules if they operate with no transactions with other caregivers and utilize only their own grown plants to prepare options for their patients. Wholesale transactions occur between caregivers many times a day. There are many caregivers who do not cultivate every plant strain or type they require, but rely on wholesale purchases from other trusted caregivers or patient donations to prepare specific formulations for patients. Patients will be unable to obtain their specialized formulations if a caregiver cannot network with other caregivers, and this is especially true for pediatric patients requiring specifically formulated tinctures. This is one way in which Maine meets the needs of our patients – by caregivers being able to network as not everyone can grow everything. 

 

Further restrictions to “Registered Premises” would make the following things illegal at a Caregiver’s home if they operate a home based caregiver business: a caregiver who operates a caregiver business from their home (now their “Registered Premises,”) may not have parties or catered events, and may not engage or allow others to engage in consumption of marijuana or liquor or any controlled substance in their home (their now “Registered Premises”). Additionally, the caregiver may not allow consumption of marijuana by anyone except a qualifying patient, but in the same sentence, “…so long as no qualifying patient [including the consumer?] sees, smells, hears or otherwise observes the consumption of medical marijuana.” This is ludicrous – the Office of Marijuana Policy does not get to control who smells what in my home. What happens in my home when I am not in session with a patient is not the business of OMP. My home and my person are not employed nor owned by OMP. These rules are over-reaching into our homes and our privacy and our rights as citizens of Maine and the United States. 

 

Many Caregivers use the family kitchen to process products. By deeming this a “Registered Premise” whether or not business is being conducted eliminates a citizen right to freedom within their own home. Additionally, the Draft indicates that a caregiver must allow access without limitation to OMP, Law enforcement, etc. NO. If the department or law enforcement show up at a caregiver’s home when the caregiver is not engaged in “business,” there should not be a clause that states that these officials are not to be denied entry to “registered premises.” Many caregivers operate on an appointment only basis because they operate out of their home. 

 

We have a right to be secure within our homes, and we will not sign away this right. I have family gatherings, parties and maybe even a catered party at my residence – because I operate a caregiver’s business from said home, does not give OMP and Law Enforcement unlimited access whenever they choose. Requiring that product be locked is one thing, but this Draft overreaches into our homes and lives far too extensively. This same issue is throughout the document including required security measures, commercial locks, cameras and motion detector lighting on perimeters and entries, and monitored alarm systems. This Draft would basically eliminate all compliant home-based Maine Caregivers.

 

Impact to Patients: 

 

A patient may only process harvested marijuana in an enclosed and lockable area. Many of our patients do not have this luxury to isolate and lock themselves away from their family that in many cases includes special needs kids (who may or may not be a cannabis patient). Mechanical extraction method using ethanol is unclear. Ethanol does not appear in the initial list, but a 99% pure ethanol is listed below as acceptable. Most market options are 180 proof which places patients in violation if they are using “Everclear” for example, a 190 proof, or 95% ethanol product. 

 

The cost of medicines will soar with the few caregivers who are able to meet these over-reaching expectations and limitations. Patients and parents on fixed incomes and limited incomes due to Covid and serious medical issues or other issues cannot afford these increases. 

 

Privacy Violations/Metrc Tracking System: 

 

inventory tracking program and travel ticket process that disclose patient card registry numbers and patient addresses that compromise our patient’s rights to privacy and subject patients to information being placed in a database and crossing digital lines for every single transaction. This exposed patients to unnecessary risk of data breach and therefore breach of confidential medical information, and exposure to criminals interested in intercepting medication deliveries. Websites and data breaches occur daily at small and large scales. The more times data is exposed and populated onto a form, the more times that data is at risk. 

 

Vehicles used to transport marijuana must have a “manufacturer installed alarm system,” and plants or products cannot be visible. Does this mean a caregiver who owns an SUV or a VAN with no trunk cannot participate? 

 

Caregivers will be required to produce extensive triplicate form paperwork that requires a specially trained person to comply with over-reaching rules and regulations. Again, this literally at least triples the potential incident of data breach and the disclosure of patient’s confidential medical information. 

 

Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program is the top performing industry in the state of Maine, and Caregivers account for about 75% of this performance. There are products that are difficult to locate such as specialized tinctures that will no longer be available through Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program when Caregivers are forced to close doors. 

 

To submit comments to the Office of Marijuana Policy: 

 

If applicable to your response, please submit copies of your evidence, data, research or other relevant information to david.heidrich@maine.gov. This information should support your policy alternatives and further inform the Office of Marijuana Policy's decisions.

 

To find your legislator to submit comments: 

 

https://legislature.maine.gov/senate-home-page/find-your-state-senator

https://legislature.maine.gov/house/house/MemberProfiles/ListEmail

 

To comment directly to the Legislative committee that manages your medical marijuana program, the Committee on Health and Human Services Committee: 

 

Committee on Health and Human Services

hhs@legislature.maine.gov

 

 

About the Author: 

 

Susan Meehan, owner of Mae’s Mamas, a home based medical marijuana caregiver proprietorship, became a “Medical Refugee” to Maine in 2013 when she brought her daughter Cyndimae to Maine from Connecticut to treat a devastating form of epilepsy that was triggered by encephalitis caused by a set of childhood vaccinations. Cyndimae was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome. In Maine with doctor guided assistance, Cyndimae enjoyed the last three (3) years of her life off of pharmaceutical drugs that had kept her seizing and bound to a wheelchair. She laughed, lived, and loved playing like a normal child while fighting alongside her mother for better access in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and South Carolina. Cyndimae’s seizures started 27 hours post vaccination at 10 months of age, and they were uncontrolled by any drug (23 attempts) except Marijuana. Cyndimae died in her sleep at the age of 13 on March 13, 2016. Her death was labeled Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy. She is survived by her three older sisters and her parents and many extended family. Live, love, laugh everyday.