A champion of Maine’s medical marijuana program is in critical condition following a moped accident while on a family vacation in the Bahamas. 

Dawson Julia, a medical cannabis provider in Unity, head of the Maine Cannabis Coalition and one of the first in the state to open a medical cannabis “caregiver” store, is “fighting for his life” in a Miami hospital, according to a GoFundMe fundraiser started by his sister-in-law, Jennifer Nyman-Julia. 

Medical marijuana caregiver Dawson Julia of East Coast CBDs in Unity in December 2015. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Julia, who according to Nyman-Julia is suffering from brain damage, lung damage, kidney failure and a sepsis infection on top of multiple fractures, cuts and bruising, is facing nearly $1 million in medical bills. Self-employed and working in the cannabis industry, Julia does not have health insurance, she said. 

Nyman-Julia’s GoFundMe, posted Wednesday evening, had already raised over $133,000 of its $500,000 goal by Thursday evening.

According to Julia-Nyman, Julia was riding mopeds with his wife, Kellie Julia, when he struck the shoulder, “catapulted” off his moped and landed on concrete. He was wearing a helmet, she said. 

Kellie Julia could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Dawson Julia was transported to the small clinic on the island and then flown to Nassau, Bahamas, and finally back to the U.S., where he is currently being treated at Kendall Regional Medical Center in Florida.

Julia’s condition changes “minute to minute,” Julia-Nyman said, but doctors are “cautiously optimistic.” 

“Dawson is a fighter, and when he sets his mind to something, he follows through until his goal is met,” she said. “Many who know him know how passionate he is about his beliefs and have seen him endlessly advocate for others.”

Julia’s hospitalization comes at a critical time for medical marijuana industry participants. 

Providers, known in the industry as caregivers, as well as medical cannabis consumers, are pushing back against a series of program changes proposed both from the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy and the Maine Legislature.

The marijuana policy office has proposed a new set of rules that officials claim are “meant to align the program with state law,” but industry participants worry it will put them out of business. 

Proposed changes include the implementation of a track-and-trace system and new video security and alarm requirements, among others, all of which can carry substantial costs. 

Julia has been outspoken about his opposition to the changes in the past, likening them to a “nuclear bomb.”

“It’s industry-destroying stuff,” he has said.

Caregivers are hopeful, though, that the changes will be halted by a proposed bill that would require the office to consult caregivers, patients, physicians and medical professionals with experience in the industry before making substantive changes. The Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee is conducting a public hearing on the bill Friday morning. 

Also on Friday morning, medical marijuana program participants are slated to appear before the committee for another public hearing, this time speaking against a bill that would establish a mandatory testing program for medical marijuana. Currently, only adult-use marijuana must be tested.

The Cannabis Coalition of Maine elected Susan Meehan as interim chairperson while Julia remains hospitalized and is encouraging people to support both the industry and Julia’s recovery with a #doit4dawson rallying cry on social media.

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