Maine lawmakers are expected to debate and vote on nearly two dozen changes to the state’s medical and recreational marijuana programs in the upcoming legislative session, and proposals run the gamut from required testing of medical marijuana to sealing or expunging the records of those convicted of marijuana-related offenses. 

According to a list of legislative requests published last week, Rep. Patricia Hymanson, D-York, is proposing legislation that would require the testing of medical marijuana, something currently only required through the state’s adult-use program. 

Maine forbids the use of high-risk pesticides in the growing process but does not test for them. 

As a physician as well as a lawmaker, Hymanson said she has “thought deeply (about) and investigated deeply” the use of cannabis as a medicine and has “come to realize it is a therapeutic treatment for many different kinds of disorders and is an important treatment for a lot of people.” 

That said, if it is used as a medication, like with any pharmacy, providers should be able to ensure patients that what they’re taking is safe and effective, she said. The bill proposes testing and then labeling for toxins including poisons, pesticides and molds, as well as potency and profile.

This would serve as one more step toward further aligning Maine’s flourishing medical industry with the adult-use, which has struggled since finally launching in October. 

Last week, the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy released a new set of draft rules that, among other changes, would require the medical caregivers to implement a track-and-trace system. Some marijuana providers have voiced concerns that mandatory testing, as well as mandatory track-and-trace for medical cannabis, will drive up prices, benefiting only larger operations and the black market. 

Hymanson, though, feels her proposal is a matter of “consumer protection.” 

“If people believe it is a medication and want to use it as a medication to treat a medical illness, … then there has to be an integrity to the program that ensures labeling and testing,” she said, adding that as the bill moves forward she will remain committed to safety and protection for patients despite pushback.

A potential boon for the medical industry, though, could come from legislation proposed by Rep. Benjamin Collings D-Portland, which would double the number of plants a medical marijuana caregiver is allowed to cultivate from 30 to 60. 

This, he said in an email, “will allow a much needed boost in state revenue and a firm financial foundation for growers.”

Medical marijuana sales totaled $221.8 million from January through October 2020, putting the industry on pace to hit $266 million in sales for the year, making cannabis Maine’s most valuable crop.

Collings is also proposing an act “to strengthen the integrity of the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy,” the intent of which, he said, will ensure that the “Office of Marijuana Policy staff are held to the similar precedent set for outgoing legislators in their temporary exclusion from lobbying.”

Two different proposals would clear the records of Maine’s marijuana offenders. One from Rep. Justin Fecteau, R-Augusta, would seal marijuana criminal convictions and civil adjudications, while a resolve proposed by Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, the assistant House majority leader, would take that one step further and expunge criminal and civil records related to marijuana activities legalized by Maine voters.

This is not the first time either representative has made such a request.

In 2019, Fecteau and Talbot Ross both called for sealing cases, which generally means rendering the convictions invisible to prospective employers and members of the public but does not delete them from the record. Expungement, on the other hand, generally means the permanent deletion of a record. 

Rep. Margaret O’Neil, D-Saco, is working to even the playing field in another way, with a proposal to “promote equity in the cannabis industry.” 

O’Neil was unable to provide many details Thursday because the draft legislation is in the early stages, but said she has been “thinking about how we can open pathways to opportunity for those who have been disproportionately impacted by our drug laws.” 

While other proposals look at criminal records, the intent of hers is to focus on economic opportunity, she said. 

Other proposals include legislation that would increase the square footage medical caregivers are allowed to cultivate while increasing fees, establish medical marijuana cooperatives, and allow medical and adult-use marijuana stores to share a common space. 

Some legislative requests, if passed, would restructure the taxation of recreational marijuana, restrict the use of marijuana and the possession of an open marijuana container in a vehicle in an effort to promote highway safety, and provide municipalities a percentage of the sales tax imposed on the product in those municipalities. A handful of other titles lacking more specific language request amendments to the adult-use and medical marijuana programs. 

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.