Medical marijuana caregivers in Maine must submit to surprise inspections and implement a new tracking system with their patients, according to strict new rules issued by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The new rules, which take effect Feb. 1, will require caregivers to endure unannounced inspections by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention or a former law enforcement agent. Refusal to submit to this rule – which will apply even to those who are growing or processing cannabis in their own homes – could result in license suspension, fines, or arrest.
Patients will also be required to submit to inspections under these new rules, but they’ll at least be given a day’s notice.
“This is a really big change in the way the state handles caregiver compliance,” Matt Dubois, a Bangor-area lawyer who represents many cannabis businesses, told the Portland Press Herald.
“It is a big invasion of privacy for the small caregivers growing in their home. It means that they have to be ready to open their door, at any time of the day or night, because they are growing medicine for sick people. That can make every knock at the door feel very intimidating, make them feel like criminals when they’re not.”
As it stands now, caregivers are only inspected if the state receives a complaint, but they're permitted to reschedule the visit to a time when their attorney is present.
Moreover, the new rules state that caregivers will be required to document the transfer of cannabis between grow sites and the place where they dispense the medicine to a patient. Dubois said these 'trip tickets' will up the cost of delivery and put caregivers at risk of inadvertent noncompliance, as they will need to document every individual delivery transaction.
“It will discourage caregivers from traveling,” Dubois said. “That will put medicine out of reach for some low-income or disabled patients, or those who live in rural areas.”
Also putting those in rural areas at a disadvantage is the new rule that requires them to undergo an in-person physical exam with a medical provider to obtain medical marijuana certification. Formerly, these prospective patients could get certified over phone or Skype.
Of course, none of this should come as any huge surprise for those who have been following Maine’s tumultuous journey with regard to cannabis legalization.
While the state voted to legalize the substance for recreational use last fall, Governor Paul LePage vetoed the bill earlier this month. LePage has always been vocal in his opposition of the initiative.