State lawmakers stripped the secrecy and extraction provisions from a marijuana bill Monday that would have allowed adult-use businesses to shield some license information from public scrutiny and driven up the price of infused foods, salves and tinctures.

The Office of Marijuana Policy got the committee vote it needed to advance the rest of its department bill, L.D. 2091, which would allow adult-use retail stores to stock their shelves with tracked and taxed medical cannabis they grew during their first year of operation, but no later than January 2022.

“We’re focusing on the big hurdles to getting this market going,” said Sen. Louis Luchini, D-Hancock, Senate chairman of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. “We tackled testing last week, making sure what’s on the shelves is safe. This week, we are making sure stores have something to put on the shelves.”

The Office of Marijuana Policy has referred to these two issues as possible bottlenecks for the industry, or “pain points,” that have caused other states to stumble when trying to roll out their adult-use markets. The state wants to delay opening until there is enough tested product on the shelves that stores do not run out.

The provision allows sales only between medical and adult-use stores owned by the same license holders.

But gone is the clause allowing adult-use applicants to shield their trade secrets, security and operational plans from public records requests. The press argued the public had a right to know details about the new industry. Craft operators argued full transparency could help deter an out-of-state takeover of the market.

“It’s very important our government is open and transparent about who is getting these licenses and where are the origins of these licensees,” said Dawson Julia, who runs a medical marijuana store in Unity and has been a long-time advocate on behalf of Maine’s 2,600 medical marijuana caregivers.

Dawson filed a public records request to inspect marijuana business license applications three months ago.

Luchini said he stripped out the state Freedom of Access Act exemption because he did not think the state needed that power to launch the program, and he didn’t want to include anything controversial in the bill that could cause it to fail. The state has very limited power to shield the most sensitive information, just like it does for other businesses.

“Marijuana doesn’t need more privacy than any other industry,” Luchini said. “The public needs to know.”

Also gone is the provision that would have reclassified alcohol-based extraction of oil from the marijuana plant as inherently dangerous, lumping it in with butane and propane extractions that must be conducted in costly, commercial-grade laboratories.

The department’s proposed ban on small-scale extraction labs sparked a firestorm of opposition.

Medical marijuana caregivers and certified patients who grow their own marijuana to treat their illnesses argued such a classification change was unnecessary and would make a simple extraction process used to create two-thirds of marijuana-infused foods, tinctures and salves illegal or unaffordable.

“Ethanol extractions have been made safely for thousands of years and have been a regular practice for many small medical caregivers and for patients seeking to cut costs by making their own medicine,” said Paul McCarrier, president of Legalize Maine. “Glad OMP saw the light.”

From here, the bill heads to the revisor’s office, where legislative staff turns proposed bills into carefully worded legal documents, then to the Senate and the House for floor votes. That timing depends on how soon the Legislature can adopt a state budget, which comes before all else.

Luchini said he doesn’t know how the marijuana bill will fare in floor votes.

“It’s hard to tell with marijuana,” Luchini said. “It’s such a tricky topic. It’s not always party line. People have very strong feelings, both ways. So I have no idea if it will pass, but these are all good things for the industry, which I think makes this a good bill.”

The Office of Marijuana Policy added the public records exemption to its proposed bill because regulators wanted state lawmakers to weigh in before deciding how to handle records requests for cannabis licenses, which could start going out as early as this week.

The office believes in transparency, but also believes that a company’s trade secrets, like a marijuana edible recipe, deserves protection from would-be imitators and wanted to prevent security measures from falling into the wrong hands. Regulators also wanted to avoid an array of industry lawsuits.

The Maine Press Association, which represents all of Maine’s daily newspapers, 38 weekly newspapers and two online publications, opposed the public record exemption of the departmental bill, as did the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.