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Maine Gov. Paul LePage Delays Stricter Medical Cannabis Regulations

The new rules would prohibit sales of edibles and allow surprise inspections of caregivers.

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Photo via Gage Skidmore

Medical cannabis providers in Maine are breathing a sigh of relief after Gov. Paul LePage has agreed to delay a controversial new set of restrictive medical marijuana regulations. The rules, which were scheduled to come into effect Thursday, would have allowed regulators to conduct surprise inspections of cannabis caregiver operations, in addition to imposing harsh penalties on processing companies that make edibles, tinctures, salves, or vaporizer waxes out of medical cannabis flower — a move that would put a number of small cannabis startups out of business.

State Rep. Deborah Sanderson wrote a letter to Gov. LePage asking him to put these new rules on hold until the Maine Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee can propose legislation to address many of the concerns that the new regulations would create. “The program needs greater oversight,” Sanderson said to the Portland Press-Herald. “My request was not a way to avoid more regulation. I just want to do it in a thorough, thoughtful way.” LePage agreed to postpone implementation of the new rules until May, explaining that while he believes “that the medical marijuana program needs improved and increased regulation, waiting until May to ensure we do not create unnecessary confusion and complication is a reasonable approach.”

Gov. LePage, a critic of marijuana legalization, has worked with Republican state legislators to delay the rollout of the voter-approved measure that legalized recreational cannabis in the Pine Tree State back in 2016. State legislators passed a temporary moratorium on legal retail sales soon after the ballot measure passed, citing a need for time to draft the necessary regulations. Ultimately Maine’s lawmakers did not succeed in drafting these regulations by Thursday’s deadline, however, and are currently pushing to extend the sales moratorium until this April, or even until February 2019.

While the regulatory framework for legal recreational sales is still up in the air, legislators are looking for ways to consolidate these regulations with the revisions being made to the medical cannabis program. Specifically, Rep. Sanderson said that regulations concerning regulatory control and oversight, licensing, packaging and labeling, and testing could be combined, rather than having separate recreational and medical regulations in these areas. Gov. LePage urged the HHS committee to ensure that its work on these new medical regulations happens “in concert” with the drafting of the new recreational rules.