Maine Introduces Emergency Rules to Streamline Cannabis Testing
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On Friday, June 26, officials from the Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) in Maine announced that it had completed emergency rulemaking intended to make the state’s cannabis testing system for adult-use cannabis products less burdensome.
The rules implement a new role in the state’s testing system, sample collectors, who will be licensed and regulated by the Department of Administrative and Financial Services and the OMP.
These sample collectors will be allowed to collect samples of cannabis and cannabis products for testing on behalf of the state’s cannabis testing facilities.
Easing the burden on testing facilities
Previously, Maine’s adult-use cannabis testing facilities were exclusively responsible for collecting cannabis product samples. This required testing facility employees to travel to every licensed establishment in Maine to collect samples in order to carry out testing.
The officials from the OMP recognize that, especially for a new testing facility, this could be a “potentially burdensome requirement at program launch.”
In addition, the OMP officials note that Maine’s unique geography could make this task even more difficult; the state is 90 percent forested and contains the extreme peaks of the Appalachian Mountains and the Longfellow Mountains, as well as extensive jagged coastline.
To stop these difficulties from causing a bottleneck in the state testing program, the OMP will now allow sample collectors to collect products for testing on behalf of testing labs. This emergency rule is effective until at least September 22, 2020, although the OMP has proposed to make the change permanent.
The new rules will also allow licensed adult-use establishments to self-sample from their inventory and deliver these samples to a licensed testing facility. This will be an option until October 1, 2021.
"Since the COVID-19 pandemic, OMP has been operating at full capacity supporting both the existing medical program and forthcoming adult use program,” said OMP director Erik Gundersen in a press statement.
“On the adult use side, we are continuing to accept applications, issue conditional licenses, and remain focused on doing everything in our power to move swiftly when we are able to launch this new industry. Completing this administrative rulemaking is an important step for industry stakeholders and shows that progress continues to be made.”
Cannabis in Maine
Cannabis reform in Maine goes back to the 1970s, when the state legislature elected to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis in 1976. In 1999, voters approved a ballot measure that would legalize medical cannabis for patients suffering from select serious health issues, and this medical cannabis program was then expanded further in 2009.
In 2016, voters approved a ballot measure that would legalize cannabis use for adults and would see the establishment of a regulated cannabis market similar to the state’s alcohol sales. California, Massachusetts, and Nevada all passed similar legislation in the same year.
However, unlike these states, Maine has yet to open its own regulated retail cannabis model. Retail sales were due to start in June this year, but this plan was postponed indefinitely as the Covid-19 pandemic delayed local approvals necessary for implementation.
“We are simply unable to provide any concrete timelines in these uncertain times,” Gundersen wrote when the postponement was announced. “We cannot tell you with any level of certainty when towns will be able to take action[…] and we certainly cannot set a definitive retail sales launch date amidst a public health pandemic.”
While the recreational market may be on hold as the pandemic progresses, medical cannabis was declared an essential business under the state’s stay-at-home order and so medical dispensaries have been able to serve patients through the past several months. As of July 1, Maine has entered the penultimate stage of Governor Janet Mills’ reopening plan to ease the lockdown measures put in place.