Cannabis regulators in Maine are recruiting members to serve on a new workgroup tasked with advising the state on its medical marijuana program. Dubbed the Marijuana Working Group, the newly formed panel will consist of civic officials, industry representatives, caregivers, and medical marijuana patients who will make recommendations to Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy (OMP) with the goal of improving the state’s medicinal cannabis program.
On Friday, OMP director Erik Gundersen announced the formation of the new working group in a press release from the agency.
“We look forward to the opportunity presented by convening a group of well-qualified individuals in pursuit of a shared goal to both preserve patient access and support the regulated marketplace,” said Gundersen.
Maine legalized medical marijuana in 1999, while cannabis was legalized in the state for use by adults in 2016. Governor Janet Mills created the OMP as part of the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services to regulate both medicinal and recreational cannabis in 2019.
Prohibitionist Need Not Apply
The Marijuana Working Group will be composed of representatives of the OMP and at least 16 volunteer external members, with all but two seats on the panel reserved for members of the medical marijuana community. Five seats are reserved for registered caregivers, and three more will be filled by qualifying medical marijuana patients. The medical marijuana industry will also be represented on the workgroup, including two seats to be filled by a registered dispensary, one by a marijuana testing facility, and another by a cannabis products manufacturer.
The working group’s membership will be rounded out by two health care professionals with a relevant area of expertise and two representatives of municipal governments. To be qualified for the panel, prospective members must have relevant experience for the seat for which they are applying. Those seeking seats reserved for industry representatives must hold an active license or registration with the OMP and be in good standing with the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services.
Prospective members of the Marijuana Working Group must also not be a registered lobbyist with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, except for those individuals who lobby directly and solely on behalf of their employer. Additionally, those seeking a seat on the workgroup must be “able to certify applicant’s interests are not prohibitionist in nature,” according to the listed qualifications for the panel. Members chosen to serve on the working group will be selected by the OMP following the public request for applications now underway.
“Our vision as a cannabis regulator has always been to develop a good faith partnership with our stakeholders by establishing rules and policies that provide interested consumers with access to a regulated industry,” said Gundersen.
Meetings Begin Next Month
Meetings of the new medical marijuana workgroup will be conducted and chaired by representatives of the OMP at least four times between September 28 and the end of November, and recommendations of the panel will be referred to regulators and lawmakers for further action. The group will use insight from the meetings to advise regulators with the OMP on best practices in patient education and access, as well as ways to update or improve Maine’s medical cannabis program.
“Outcomes resulting from the meetings are expected to include steps that may be taken through legislation and rulemaking or developing recommendations for streamlining the office’s licensing and compliance processes to ensure the medical-use program is fulfilling the hallmarks of a regulated industry,” the OMP wrote in the release.
Applications for those wishing to serve on the Marijuana Working Group and a schedule of upcoming meetings are available online. Applications for membership on the panel will be accepted by the OMP until Friday, September 3, 2021.
A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based freelance writer covering cannabis news, business, and culture.