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History of Medical Cannabis in Maine
In 1999, state voters enacted the Maine Medical Marijuana Act, which decriminalized use, possession and cultivation of cannabis at the state-level for patients who use medical cannabis on the advice of their physician for certain qualifying medical conditions. In 2002, Maine enacted SB 611, which increased the medical cannabis possession limit for eligible patients to 2.5 ounces. In 2009, the voters of Maine modified the 1999 Act with Question 5, which added several qualifying conditions and created a statewide distribution program and patient registry system. In 2012, the Maine legislature amended the law to provide better patient privacy by making registration with the state optional. In 2013, Maine enacted HP 755/LD 1062, which added PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions, and in 2016 Maine lawmakers approved LD 726, which authorized the operation of third-party testing labs to ensure the safety of legal medical cannabis products sold in the state. Maine voters also approved an adult-use cannabis program in 2016 via statewide ballot initiative Question 1, but disagreements between then Governor LePage and the legislature delayed implementation. Maine has approved regulations that will allow physicians to diagnose conditions through telemedicine beginning in 2018.
In December of 2018, a medical cannabis omnibus bill (LD 1539) went into effect over Governor Lepage’s veto. The legislation eliminated the limited qualifying condition list that previously set forth eligibility for patients to obtain legal cannabis, opting to instead leave decisions about patient access to qualified physicians. The legislative package also eliminated the requirement that a patient designate a caregiver or particular dispensary to patronize, added two more dispensaries to the existing population of eight and lifted the cap on the total state number of dispensaries entirely in 2021. Language in the bills also authorizes caregivers to open storefront businesses and cultivate up to 30 flowering and 60 vegetative plants. Finally, the combined measures removed restrictions on transferring of cannabis plants from another patient, caregiver or dispensary for no compensation, and allowed patients to possess up to eight pounds of harvested cannabis.
Also overriding the Governor’s veto in 2018 was legislation (LD 1719) outlining rules for the operation of a state-wide adult-use cannabis program. The legislation removed some components of the 2016 law approved by Maine voters, namely public consumption facilities and restrictions reducing the number of cannabis plants adults may own from six to three. Rules governing the operation of the adult-use system were promulgated in 2019, the same year that Governor Mills signed HP0395/LD 538, authorizing reciprocity for visiting out-of-state patients who are registered in their home state.
2020 saw Maine’s adult-use program open its doors, with the first licensed dispensary conducting sales operations in July. In response to COVID, Maine declared cannabis businesses essential and is allowing for telehealth visits to determine patient program eligibility.