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PUBLIC SPEAKS OUT ON PROPOSED DHHS RULES ----------------------------------------------------------------
Over 175 people packed the State House on Monday, August 16, to express discontent, grief and sometimes anger with proposed restrictions on the ability of patients and caregivers to legally cultivate medical marijuana. The proposed rules from the Department of Health and Human Services would severely restrict the ability of patients to legally cultivate their medicine outdoors. Cultivation would not be allowed within 25 feet of any property boundary, and plants would be required to be enclosed by an 8 foot privacy fence, with motion sensitive lighting. The site would have to be at residence where the grower is living, and the department could require unspecified “other security measures” at any time.
In addition to regulations that would effectively shut down legal outdoor growing for patients, the proposed rules would also restrict
the number of vegetative plants to 12, with no working definition for seedlings, which would make it very difficult for patients to sustain a viable crop to serve their needs.
The proposed DHHS rules would also create major substantive changes to Maine's medical marijuana law by adding classes of Maine patients prohibited from cultivating for themselves, including those who are homeless, in hospice, or legally defined as incapacitated.
These groups of patients are some of the people most in need of safe medicine, and least able to afford any additional costs, and who often live in situations where they can't cultivate at their residence. Currently landowner's have agreements with patients who don't have a land base, to allow them to grow their medicine in an enclosed, locked area.
The definition of “incapacitated” under Maine law is very broad, and includes any person who is impaired by reason of mental illness,
mental deficiency, physical illness or disability. All people defined as incapacitated fall under the jurisdiction of the DHHS. Whether a
person meets the legal definition of incapacity is determined by the Probate Court.
Medical marijuana patient Mike Reynolds of Lewiston pointed out that these changes ignore the fact that growing one's medicine is a therapeutic activity that is proved to be very beneficial to people who are otherwise restricted in their activities due to physical or mental disabilities, as was recently documented on National Public Radio in the article “Can Gardening Help Troubled Minds Heal?"
The sponsor of Maine's 2011 Medical Marijuana bill, LD 1296, Representative Deb Sanderson, explained, “The purpose of LD1296 was ...to restore the intent of the Citizen's Initiative of 2009, to increase legal access to patients whose physician has recommended the use medical marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of debilitating disease or illness. ...There are also a couple of areas in the proposed rules that are incredibly vague, that can and most likely will lead to confusion and misinterpretation when a caregiver or patient reads the rules, and when lawmakers read the rules. It must be clear to maintain the integrity of the program, to ensure that law enforcement officials have clear definitions of what is and isn't legal.”
Sanderson continued, “I appreciate the Department's willingness to meet with me prior to the Public hearing here, and to work out the definition of an enclosed, locked facility to also include outdoor cultivation. That certainly was the intent of the language, and we certainly spent much time and energy going over it during the work session process before passage of LD 1296.”
There were questions about the legality of the process of the rule-making, with caregiver John Stuart explaining how Title 5 under Maine Administrative Law requires there to be a Public Hearing before the committee of jurisdiction if the Department is to make major substantive rule changes. Stuart explained how changes the DHHS has already gone beyond its rule making authority, when it set a $300 annual registration charged for caregivers, and how the new proposed rule would create major substantive changes contrary to the intent of Maine's medical marijuana law as passed by Citizens Initiatives in 1999 and 2009.
Dr. Dustin Sulak from Maine Integrative Health stressed how many conditions could be treated by the use of medical cannabis,
referencing medical studies out of Israel and Canada proving that cannabis can be the most effective treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is not currently a qualifying condition for use of medical marijuana in Maine.
Sgt. Ryan Begin, a combat wounded veteran from Jackman spoke of the need for rules that allow a doctor to decide what conditions qualify for use of medical marijuana, instead of creating a new bureaucratic process for adding conditions. He commented, “I am living proof that medical marijuana is beneficial in the treatment of PTSD. Every day veterans are returning home from combat and once they return the face their biggest battle, dealing with PTSD. The VA is shoving pills at them, and are only adding to the difficulty of returning to a non-combative society. The state of Maine needs to do its part to help out our existing veterans and the ones who are returning home seeking help.”
“These changes would drastically change the way people have been taking care of themselves for the past two years,” said Paul
McCarrier, legislative liaison for Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine. “Its ironic that the Public Hearing is today, because a year
ago to the day the Department, under the former Division of License and Regulatory Services Director Cathy Cobb, held a stakeholder
meeting to discuss the up coming rules, which were never implemented. Before any rules take effect, there needs to be a working group that includes patients and caregivers.”
Republican Representatives Heather Sirocki and Deb Sanderson, along with Democratic Rep. Mark Dion, also called for a group of
stakeholders to meet and develop rules that would be in line with the intent of Maine's medical marijuana law, allow outdoor cultivation, and prioritize patient access to safe medicine.
The DHHS Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services will accept written comment on the marijuana rule changes until Aug. 23rd at 5 p.m.
DHHS Information: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/dlrs/rulemaking/proposed.shtml#anchor416676
More coverage of the August 13 Public Hearing at:
Federal Government to Cut Benefits to Elderly & Disabled Medical Marijuana Patients
Mal Leary covers how the Federal Government's Department of Agriculture is cutting food stamp benefits for elderly and disabled medical marijuana patients in Maine.
MSHA Patient Housing
Maine State Housing Authority Threatens to Force Patient to Choose Between Medication and Housing
WABI Channel 's 5 Rob Pointdexter helps tell the story of Don LaRouche of Madison. Check out the story here.
News Update 6-19
4/20 Calendars for Sale
All proceeds support MMCM's work for patient and caregiver advocacy
and education in Maine.
Calendar photos feature cannabis grown by Maine Caregivers, with great info on strains, growing tips, and more!
For the 2013-2014 calendar, we'll be focusing on strains that have been developed in Maine, and are seeking photos of Maine-grown plants and buds.
We are also looking for supportive businesses and people who would like to distribute the MMCM calendars at events and to friends and neighbors. If interested, be in touch.