MCLU Urges Changes to New Medical Marijuana Rules

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
June 7, 2010 12:00 am

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Augusta – Today the MCLU testifies in opposition to some of the proposed rules governing medical marijuana. The Department of Health and Human Services is holding a public hearing at 1 pm in Room 209 of the Cross Office Building in Augusta today to hear public comments regarding the state’s new medical marijuana rules.

“The move to set up dispensaries and the appropriate regulatory scheme surrounding dispensaries should not create barriers to individual patient access to medical marijuana,” wrote MCLU Public Policy Counsel Alysia Melnick in her in the MCLU comments to the Department of Health and Human Services. “Unfortunately, some of the proposed rules threaten patient health, privacy and due process.”

Maine voters approved a referendum in November allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. Unfortunately, the legislature approved amendments to that law that now require all medical marijuana patients and their caregivers to register with the state. The proposed Rules raise six key concerns for the MCLU.

  • The rules allow the Department to revoke a patient’s registration card without an appeals hearing or sufficient due process.
  • The new rules impose annual registration fees of $75 to $100 for patients and caregivers without providing for a waiver for those who are not able to pay.
  • The new rules lack patient confidentiality protections including purging of the information once a patient ceases to use medical marijuana.
  • The new rules require mandatory drug testing for dispensary employees, not required in the actual legislation.
  • Both the law passed by the legislature and the proposed rules contain a discrepancy between the number of plants patients are allowed to grow (6) and the amount of marijuana they are allowed to possess (2.5 ounces) creating a Catch-22 for patients who want to abide by the law.
  • The law and the rules allow disclosure of confidential patient information to law enforcement without a warrant.

“The new law and the proposed rules are a step backward for patients who have been safely accessing medical marijuana for the last decade,” said MCLU Executive Director Shenna Bellows. “Maine voters time and time again have approved medical marijuana. It is wrong for the State to contradict the will of the voters by enacting unnecessary regulations that infringe upon patient health and privacy.”

On Saturday, the MCLU participated in a statewide medical marijuana conference where patients, caregivers, and lawmakers gathered to discuss the new law. This evening the MCLU will attend the Portland City Council meeting to oppose a new moratorium on growing of medical marijuana in the city.

“The City of Portland, much like DHHS and the legislature, are punishing patients with new regulations written for dispensaries,” said MCLU Public Policy Counsel Alysia Melnick. “Any changes in policy at the state and local levels should maintain the patient access and privacy protections that have been in place for years.”

A complete copy of the comments is available upon request.

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