Parents Among Those Applauding Lawmaker’s About Face On Medical Marijuana Changes 

Lawmakers in Augusta are considering several changes to Maine’s medical marijuana law. One change in particular had some folks at the state house outraged.

The controversy surrounded a substance known as “kief”. It’s a natural bi-product of marijuana that is used to make tinctures, an extract that’s used among other things to help epileptics manage their seizures. Among the changes in LD 1739, one of the bill being considered by lawmakers, would outaw the use of kief.

A large group of parents who have used tinctures to successfully treat their children’s epilepsy came to the state house to speak out against the criminalizing of kief. Michael Colster and Christie Shakes’ 10-year-old son Calvin has epilepsy. He suffers from violent and unpredictable seizures that sometimes cause him to stop breathing.

“Typically he won’t breathe for a couple minutes. He experiences as a result of that cyanosis, which means his lips, fingers, extremities, toes, ears turn blue,” Colster said.

The couple says prescribed medications have been ineffective and caused significant side effects like dizziness, headaches and visual disturbances in their son. They learned about the use of tinctures to treat epilepsy while visiting family in California and were hoping to try it on their son to see if could help alleviate the severity and frequency of his seizures. But if the law as it’s currently written passes, that treatment will become illegal.

“If we had started it while we thought it might be legal now, then if we were to have to stop it because they passed the bill that could also result in some withdrawal seizures,” Shakes said.

The folks who showed up to protest the outlawing of kief got an unexpected break when the bill’s sponsor Portland Democrat Mark Dion, a former Cumberland County Sheriff, did an about face while addressing the committee.

“I’m here to say publicly I was wrong,” Dion told members of the Health and Human Services Committee. “My initial reaction was really just a throwback to earlier thinking and really I think what the committee has to consider is cannabis at any point on the continuum of processing remains cannabis and should remain lawful.”

Dion plans to propose an amendment that will continue to allow the use of kief. That amendment is expected to be ready in time for the work session on the bill. The committee is considering three bills that would alter how medicinal marijuana is regulated and distributed in Maine.

LD 1597 – This bill amends the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act to specify that access to a marijuana cultivation facility operated by a patient, a primary caregiver or a dispensary is open to government officials acting within the scope of their employment, under the direct supervision of the patient, the primary caregiver or a principal officer, board member or employee of the dispensary. Currently, a dispensary and any additional location at which the dispensary cultivates marijuana for medical use by a patient are subject to reasonable inspection by the Department of Health and Human Services.

LD 1623 – This bill allows registered dispensaries to purchase and sell excess prepared marijuana from and to each other.

LD 1739 – 1. Defining “medical provider” to mean a physician or a certified nurse practitioner and adding a definition of “certified nurse practitioner” in order to authorize a certified nurse practitioner who is a qualifying patient’s primary care provider to issue a written certification for the qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana;

2. Defining and prohibiting the use, possession or sale of kief; (amendment pending to strike this provision)

3. Clarifying that tinctures containing marijuana are considered food or goods containing marijuana

4. Clarifying that a medical provider’s written certification for the medical use of marijuana expires within one year after issuance

5. Authorizing disclosure of registered primary caregiver and dispensary information to the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, Maine Revenue Services for taxation compliance purposes

6. Enacting provisions regarding compliance, including collection of evidence, complaint investigation, penalty and injunctive relief provisions

7. Authorizing the Department of Health and Human Services to transport marijuana for laboratory testing and evidence collection purposes.