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Maine: Governor Signs Law Expanding Privacy, Other Legal Protections For Medical Cannabis Patients

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 27, 2011

    At a time when lawmakers in several states are seeking to limit or suspend their medical marijuana programs, Maine lawmakers are expanding patients’ protections and access under the law.

    On Friday, Republican Gov. Paul LePage signed legislation, LD 1296, into law on that enhances privacy protections for qualified medical cannabis patients.

    The measure eliminates a 2010 legislative mandate requiring medical marijuana patients to be registered with the state in order to receive legal protection under state law. It also eliminates language requiring physician’s to disclose a patient’s specific medical condition with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

    In addition, LD 1296 limits the ability of law enforcement to seize cannabis from lawful patients, and mandates for the return of any seized property within seven days.

    Only two additional states – California and Washington – do not require patients to be registered with the state to receive limited legal protections.

    The new law takes effect in approximately 90 days.

    In March, Safe Alternatives, the first state-regulated medical marijuana dispensary on the East Coast, opened in Frenchville, Maine. Since then, two additional dispensaries have opened their doors. The state expects to have eight licensed dispensaries up and running imminently.

    Additional information on this study will appear in this week’s NORML news update. To receive these e-mail updates free, please sign up here.

    19 Responses to “Maine: Governor Signs Law Expanding Privacy, Other Legal Protections For Medical Cannabis Patients”

    1. The American Genesist says:

      It seems that the really heavy load is being pulled by the governors…with the exception of a few…who will remain nameless – because – they don’t deserve to be recognized in a positive light. In fact – they should hang their heads in shame – for they have sinned against the American people.

    2. Humboldt Growers Association expanding its membership: Cannabis trade organization focuses on changing policy for evolving industry

      For Southern Humboldt resident Kristin Nevedal, an avid gardener and a trained herbalist, marijuana is just another plant.

      ”It doesn’t make sense to me that there’s not access to it, and it doesn’t make sense that you can’t grow it in your backyard,” she said, adding that any herbal plant can be abused if taken improperly.

      The key is education, Nevedal said.

      As the medical marijuana industry grows and evolves, residents like Nevedal are bringing their beliefs and craft to the forefront through trade groups such as the Humboldt Growers Association.

      Nevedal, who is vice present of the association, said the Southern Humboldt-based nonprofit hopes to ensure a future for medical marijuana growers with a legitimate and safe agricultural and medicinal industry model. The group’s website lists environmental protection, job creation, public safety and patient wellness as its key issues.

      ”Humboldt County is a producing county, and wanting to hone that and trying to create some rights for farmers is really important to us,” she said.

      After a year of lobbying local and state legislators, the Humboldt Growers Association is expanding. The nonprofit launched its membership drive earlier this month and has been tabling at events for exposure. Additionally, it’s the sponsor of Dell’Arte’s cannabis-themed musical — “Mary Jane: the Musical” — which opened Thursday night.

      ”We have learned a lot about county
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      politics and public policy along the way and have gotten a lot of support and input from key stakeholders in the industry locally and statewide,” President Joey Burger wrote in an email to the Times-Standard. “It has taken time to get our organization up to speed, and we are now ready to expand our membership and, as a medical cannabis trade association, share our resources with the rest of the community. It is only through the support of our members and community that we can ensure Humboldt is a leader in this growing industry.”

      The growth of the trade

      The group formed in summer 2010 and quickly caught the attention of local officials, including then-4th District Supervisor Bonnie Neely. During her re-election campaign, Neely sponsored a workshop featuring the HGA to discuss the future of the marijuana industry in Humboldt. Legalization was a pivotal campaign issue for many politicians during the election, with Proposition 19 — which would have legalized marijuana for recreational use — on the ballot. Members of the group donated heavily to Neely’s campaign and the campaign of District Attorney Paul Gallegos.

      Since leaving office, Neely has appeared before the Humboldt County Planning Commission as a consultant for the group. She said she has been monitoring legislation at state and federal level and participating in HGA strategy sessions.

      ”I chose to work for them because the Humboldt Growers Association is made up of Humboldt County people with Humboldt County families who are making every effort to work with county government and make our community safer and stronger,” Neely wrote in an email to the Times-Standard. “Working with the HGA board is a pleasure.”

      The group also attracted ire early on from other Humboldt pot farmers who thought HGA was a selective group of growers with large-scale operations.

      Prior to the inception of HGA, a group of Southern Humboldt residents launched the Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel. The group identified itself as a voice for small “mom and pop” growers, and some of its founders initiated the first countywide meetings on the marijuana industry.

      Panel member Charlie Custer said the two groups formed with different objectives in mind, but the ultimate goals may be the same — to help Humboldt farmers be recognized as producers of a safe product.

      Custer said the small farmers actually are the backbone of the industry in Humboldt, not a handful of big growers.

      ”We want to make sure that those people aren’t cut out of the legalization process as it moves forward,” he said. “I think HGA is sympathetic to these points, but it’s not what motivated them to start HGA.”

      The HGA has 10 members, and the recent membership drive launch has prompted inquiries for membership daily, according to HGA Outreach Coordinator Alison Sterling Nichols. She said those numbers should increase when an ordinance is in place that provides protections for growers.

      ”Obviously, Humboldt County has long been associated with high-quality cannabis, but still has a relatively small legal medical cannabis community,” she said. “The HGA is working to help get a county ordinance in place so that more people in Humboldt can become a part of this legal medical industry.”

      Nevedal said the nonprofit wanted to make sure it established itself before opening up to general membership, which it is doing now.

      ”I know people were critical and concerned, and I completely understand that,” she said. “But I think it was really good for us to get our focus of intent down so that we can really have a good discussion.”

      Nichols said that conversation is happening now, with members of HuMMAP meeting with HGA to work toward a common goal.

      ”This is something that everyone can benefit from,” she said. “We can all get on the same page and move forward together.”

      Change in the Capitol

      In the last year, the HGA has made a name for itself at the county level and state level, submitting input and crafting draft ordinances for Humboldt while also being a voice for growers and patients at the state capital through its lobbyist, Max Del Real, who advised HGA during its inception. He recently formed the Sacramento-based California Cannabis Business League. Burger is a board member.

      Del Real said what sets HGA apart is its focus on economic development through the sale of safe, regulated medicine and better business practices.

      ”At the end of the day, you can’t just scream about your medicine, you got to talk about the politicians and the policymakers here,” Del Real said.

      Humboldt County Community Services Director Kirk Girard said the HGA’s input has been very helpful to the county.

      ”They add some professionalism to the industry,” he said. “They have really good intentions, and so far they’ve been very perceptive and got a pretty good vision of how a legalized medical cannabis could operate, and they seem to have raised the bar from the dispensary end of the supply chain all the way back to the grower.”

      Del Real, who helped get dispensary regulations passed in Sacramento before working with HGA, said he recognizes that cannabis is an industry worth billions of dollars and thinks the HGA was the first organization of its kind — an organization that put Humboldt even further on the map.

      ”Pot and pot policy is a very muddy field wherever you go,” Del Real said. “Everyone’s an expert, everyone knows someone, and then you get into Humboldt County and it’s intensified by 100 degrees.”

      He said the organization is working on creating legislation that will allow marijuana to be sold across state lines, likening the export opportunity to California cheeses — a niche manufacturing and specialty foods market.

      ”If you want outdoor grown — like California cheeses — some of the best cannabis in the world, we can create a process legally where we can really move medicine across state lines,” he said. “That’s just one of the many global issues that we’re looking at.”

      Burger said a focus on state and federal policy is vital to the burgeoning legal market.

      ”Humboldt’s needs are obviously very different than the rest of California,” Burger wrote in his email. “We can assume that what is right for L.A. or San Jose is not acceptable for our community.”

      Local legislation

      Custer said HuMMAP’s focus is more on ensuring that small farmers are incorporated into the regulations with a focus on organic, outdoor cannabis, but he can see why HGA’s approach may be more palatable for regulators trying to get a grasp on the business.

      ”The big industrial growers want legitimacy, they want to be able to continue making very good money in perfect legality, and government is very open to their desires because they are the very easy, low-hanging fruit,” he said.

      In order to ensure that the county has solid regulations in place to address the numerous issues involved with the industry — the prevention of grow houses, ensuring the quality of medical marijuana, outdoor cultivation standards — there needs to be input from lots of different sources, Girard said.

      He said both groups have a lot of the same concerns and want to reach the same goals.

      ”All the people here in Humboldt are trying to provide a working model for this industry; they’re all working toward the greater good,” Girard said.

      Nevedal said it is fortunate that county officials are listening at all.

      ”We have officials that recognize but don’t really know the industry, so while they see some value in it for patients and they see how it’s supported the community, they don’t necessarily understand it,” she said. “So I think one of the main roles the HGA can play is education. I think the more familiar people are with it, the more educated they are, the better choices they are going to make — just like any thing else.”

    3. Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos is still looking to pay off some campaign debt and hopes to get a lot of help Wednesday at a pricey Sacramento fundraiser sponsored by a medical marijuana lobbying organization.

      According to campaign disclosure forms filed with the Humboldt County Elections Office, Gallegos left the November 2010 campaign cycle — which saw him best challenger Allison Jackson to retain his office — with $41,000 in outstanding loans, including $26,000 owed to his wife, local attorney Joan Gallegos.

      Enter the California Cannabis Business League, a nonprofit trade association representing the state’s the medical cannabis industry with a focus on job creation, public safety and community wellness. Mostly, however, the group’s express purpose is to lobby on behalf of its members’ business interests, according to President Max Del Real.

      ”The (league’s) byline is to connect cannabis to capitalism. We’re not shy about that,” said Del Real, a lobbyist who has been on the front lines of the medical marijuana movement for several years. “God bless the activists, but they’re not businessmen and businesswomen. I’m not a patient and I’m not an activist; I’m a lobbyist and I’m a policy wonk. I’m the first guy to put on a suit and hair products and say the word cannabis.”

      The league is also a huge fan of Gallegos, who Del Real dubbed a “friend and ally”
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      and a “supporter of medical cannabis” with a forward-thinking perspective on the issue.

      Del Real said he came to know Gallegos through his work with the Humboldt Grower’s Association, a small lobbying group of medical marijuana growers led by President Joey Burger that works to influence state and local policy. Burger sits on the board of directors for the league, which was started by Del Real, a hired lobbyist for the Humboldt Growers Association.

      So when the league recently ramped up lobbying efforts in Sacramento with eyes on setting up a state framework for the industry, it asked Gallegos to serve on its advisory panel and offered to host a fundraiser for him — an event Del Real said is more of a networking opportunity, noting it will be attended by Capitol bigwigs, representatives of the cannabis industry, members of the California Board of Equalization and the law enforcement community and more.

      Gallegos said he sees Wednesday’s event as an opportunity to take care of some of his outstanding campaign debt and to learn about the league’s work.

      ”What I understand about them is that they are business people, and their endeavor is to try to promote medical marijuana, promote its safety and jobs and appropriate regulation,” Gallegos said. “I want to hear what they have to say.”

      The Humboldt Grower’s Association hosted a fundraiser for Gallegos during his campaign, and Burger donated $2,000 to his re-election bid, according to disclosure forms.

      Wednesday’s two-hour event — which asks attendees to contribute between $250 and $2,500 to Gallegos’ 2010 campaign — will be held at the upscale L Street Lofts in Sacramento.

      Despite the hefty price tag, Del Real insists the event is less fundraiser and more networking opportunity and social mixer. An email invitation for the event bills it as an engagement with Gallegos to “celebrate his support of the medical cannabis industry and its exciting future in California.”

      While medical marijuana is legal in California, it remains illegal federally, classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. With Gallegos heading south, some have questioned whether there’s something wrong with a district attorney benefiting from a fundraiser sponsored by a business group that is acting afoul of federal law.

      ”I confess that I’ve certainly contemplated that as well,” Gallegos said, adding that he doesn’t see anything wrong with it. “I’m a state officer and it’s the state law. I don’t enforce federal law. What I do is try to enforce California law, promote California law and respect California law. … These are people engaged in lawful activity under California law, looking for ways to engage in it in a lawful manner, a safe manner and a way that’s out in the light.”

      For his part, Del Real said folks in Humboldt County should want as large a voice in the discussions in Sacramento as possible.

      ”The laws that are made in our statehouse in the next 15 to 20 years in California, those laws will decide in a large way the future and fate of Humboldt County,” he said

    4. TheOracle says:

      How many federal law enforcement officers will they need in every little town to enforce federal cannabis prohibition? How much more will that cost now that MMJ states are not using state and local law enforcement?

      I mean, really, it’s time to let the states decide. How about some of that freedom from the federal government everybody keeps talking about?

      Let the states and the DC decide.

    5. FormerMainer says:

      Holy crap, LePage did something right??

    6. Ll says:

      Can you imagine a law that forces doctors to inform state health agencies about every prostate exam?

      Why not? What’s the difference between that and being forced to report the medical condition for which MMJ is recommended?

      Very little such personal information is any of the government’s business.

    7. SkunkyFingers says:

      GO MAINE!!! 2012 just around the corner—Go USA 2012!!!

    8. Melissa Griggs says:

      Nice to see some intelligence from a Government Official. I only wish Common sense would prevail here, in Michigan.

    9. The American Genesist says:

      The Sixth Day is a Celebration of Brethren.

      The Genesist Faith is all about the appreciation of the “Fatherhood of God” and the “Brotherhood of Man.” Genesists wish our house to be open as air to all whom we spiritually bond as brethren, and who bond to us. As [is] our Genesist nature – a mutual sharing of – Observation * Experience * and Wisdom – permeates our Celebration of Brethren on the Sixth Day.

      Genesist’s Credo.

      Work hard…Play hard…Rest hard – Rejoice! Genesists fear not our celebration of life, for it has already been approved that we do this. Genesists form the texture of the continuous celebration of life. Genesists live to enhance love, creativity, and understanding. Toil…Eat…Drink…Be merry – is [not] a commandment – it’s a gift. As a gift – it’s yours and yours alone, to have and to hold, forever and ever, amen. “Genesists are completely devoted to the premise that life was made for the pure enjoyment of living, and anything else is a sin.” Genesists embrace life and see it as God’s blessing. We are established by a blessing. As is our sacrament a gift from God, so is the celebration of life. God’s gift of life is to bring joy and fulfillment, and Equilibrium of the Soul.

    10. […] doors. The state expects to have eight licensed dispensaries up and running imminently.Resourced: NORML  Stay InformedYour email:Mail Order Medical Marijuana Shipping & DeliveryOrder Online 24 […]

    11. Little Gypsy says:

      Hurray for Maine! Common sense reins in Maine.

    12. […] Friday Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) signed LD 1296 into law. The legislation expands privacy protection for the state’s medical marijuana […]

    13. The American Genesist says:

      The Governors are pulling all the weight – and -makin’ it happen. Maine Genesists support Governor Paul LePage – and – he is a republican.

    14. […] in the United States, their MMP has recently undergone significant revisions and expansion. Back In 2009, Maine voters decisively passed a ballot initiative which would allow for the creation of nonprofit […]

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