Cannabis regulators hear from stakeholders in emotional listening session
The Office of Cannabis Policy is using listening sessions to inform research and policy proposals.
On Wednesday, the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy held a community town hall at the University of Southern Maine as part of a state-wide listening tour.
It was an opportunity for stakeholders and people in the cannabis industry to express concerns, ask questions and have an open conversation with regulators.
The legal cannabis industry is still relatively new. Recreational use became legal in Maine in 2018 and the official sale of recreational marijuana started in 2020.
The OCP listening sessions could help shape future policy proposals.
The conversation touched on everything from underaged marijuana use to medical marijuana testing.
Some stakeholders provided testimony about the healing properties of marijuana.
"He was smoking 8 pounds of cannabis a year, just to keep the demons away and get off meth and pills and alcohol and, you know, everything," said Melissa Veilleux, regarding her husband, a veteran who uses marijuana to help alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. "He did three tours, you know, he was the only one that came home."
Others who work in the school system spoke about the negative impact of cannabis on minors.
"I understand that we're talking about medical and adult use industry, but we cannot overlook the fact that teenagers are getting a hold of these products," said Madison Friend, who works with Students Empowered to End Dependency. "These kids are using so much. They’re not taking showers. They’re not able to function at school."
Another major topic of discussion was testing.
Eight Investigates recently reported on a notable regulatory gap regarding medical marijuana, which doesn't have to be tested for pesticides and containments like recreational marijuana does.
The OCP has suggested that they may be close to proposing new testing requirements.
"It is ludicrous that I am barred by law from telling the agency that regulates pesticides, that there are pesticides in a certain company," said Office of Cannabis Policy director John Hudak.
Small medical marijuana growers and sellers, known as caregivers, say the cost of testing is too expensive and would put them out of business.
"Testing should be a choice," said caregiver Michael Fowler. "It should be a choice for the cultivator. It should be a choice for the consumer. It shouldn't be mandated."
During the last legislative session, Maine enacted seven cannabis-related policies.