Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program Suffering Communication Breakdown

Rob Poindexter

Updated 1 year ago

Just a few months after the director of Maine’s medical marijuana program was dismissed, members of the medical marijuana community here in Maine say the program is in a shambles. New rules governing Maine’s medical marijuana program went into affect December 31. But those who participate in the program and must comply with these rules say they have a problem. As of January 2, the rules still were not posted publicly and many of people had no idea whether they were breaking the law. “The worst case scenario is that you will have a patient or a caregiver who is not aware of these rules that took affect and have an interaction with law enforcement and that law enforcement will then take action against the patient or caregiver because they’re not in compliance with the rules they’re ignorant of,” said Paul McCarrier, head of the Maine Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association.Ken Alberts, Director of Licensing and Regulatory Services at DHHS, sent out an email on December 21 to all “interested parties” which contained the rule changes. Many patients and caregivers say they signed up to be included on that mailing list but never received the email containing the rules. In the letter, Alberts also says the posting of the rules could be delayed because of the holidays, but says the adopted rules still take affect on December 31. Patients and caregivers were part of the new rule making process, convincing state officials to eliminate some of the proposed rules that were considered by many to be unrealistic. “They reduced the fence restriction from 8 feet to 6 feet. They got rid of the nuisance lighting and they also got rid of any requirements for setback leaving that in control of municipalities,” McCarrier said.But McCarrier says the lack of communication between patients and caregivers and DHHS officials is troubling. It’s a problem many of those in the medical marijuana community thought had been rectified under former program director John Thiele. Thiele ceased being the program’s director back in November. He says he was fired, but DHHS officials say Thiele resigned. Either way Thiele said back in November he was trying to get his old job back, a move that patients and caregivers around the state would like to see happen. “It’s really disappointing,” McCarrier said. “I think it shows, with the firing of John Thiele, the program is not running well and that we need to see John Thiele back in his position or we need to see someone competent running the program.” DHHS spokesperson John Martins said Thursday not to expect John Thiele back running the program anytime soon. “John Thiele resigned his position at the Department of Health and Human Services and his resignation was accepted. We are in the process of recruiting a new director,” Martins said in a prepared statement.Martins also said the staff in the medical marijuana program are not ignoring patients and caregivers. He says the staff of two is simply overwhelmed. “There is a high volume of calls in this program – in fact, we average between 100 and 150 calls per day. We have two staff dedicated to responding to these calls. We have also implemented a new menu-driven phone system that will allow for more efficiency. We are certainly taking steps to improve responsiveness.”As of January 3, the rules were posted at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/dlrs/rulemaking/adopted.shtml To request a hard copy of the rules you can call 287-9300


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