Medical marijuana patients in Maine soon won’t have to go very far for their doctor-recommended and legally protected medicine. The state will announce the locations of eight regional dispensaries in July, reports Charles McMahon at SeaCoastOnline.com.
Earlier this month, the state started accepting applications from nonprofit corporations to become dispensaries under Maine’s Medical Use of Marijuana Act. The Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services (DLRS
) in the Department of Health and Human Services will be in charge of the selection process.
The state will only allow eight dispensaries, one in each of Maine’s eight public Health Districts, according to a DHHS release. John Martins, DHHS director of employee and public communications, said the state has determined it will regionalize the dispensaries.
The act passed by Maine voters last November allows patients with “debilitating medical conditions” diagnosed by a physician licensed in Maine to receive written certification allowing them to “acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, use, deliver, transfer or transport marijuana and/or paraphernalia without fear of prosecution.”
Qualifying patients are required to register and receive a state-issued identification card, according to Maine.gov
. Patients are then permitted to possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and, if they have not specified a primary caregiver, may grow up to six cannabis plants.
Patients must include a $100 fee with their application.
Primary caregivers are also allowed to register, and are considered protected under the law as well.
Non-profit dispensaries are allowed to possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer or transport, sell, supply or dispense marijuana and/or paraphernalia under the rules.
Dispensaries are also considered primary caregivers, and there is no limit to the number of patients for whom a dispensary may act as primary caregiver.
Emergency rules passed on May 5 further describe how a dispensary will be selected and established, according to Martins. The rules will be in effect for up to 90 days, while DHHS completes regular non-emergency rule-making.
The emergency rules were put in place to allow for the immediate application process of patients and dispensaries, according to Martins. He said the emergency rules will help officials as they continue to devise specific guidelines.
The new rules also address the registration process for prospective patients, patient rights, provider responsibilities and other requirements. Both the rules and the dispensary application materials can be viewed at www.maine.gov/dhhs/dlrs
“The rules that have been established reflect the desires of prospective patients, the medical community, public safety, the Governor’s Medical Marijuana Task Force and the people of Maine who voted in favor of a medical marijuana program,” said DHHS Commissioner Brenda Harvey.
“DLRS has established a solid framework for this program and I commend them for their diligence and attention to detail,” Harvey said.
Each applicant to operate a potential dispensary must include a $15,000 fee with their application. Those who are not chosen will have all but $1,000 of that fee returned.
Dispensary applications will be accepted until 2 p.m. on June 25, and officials said they expect to announce winning applicants on July 9.
DHHS said it will select the “best application” for each Public Health District. Each applicant will be awarded points for compliance with local ordinances, security of the proposed cultivation site, and the long-term business plan of the nonprofit dispensary.
Points may also be awarded for convenience of the proposed dispensary to patients, ensuring a steady supply of marijuana for the projected number of patients, business experience, administrative controls that will discourage unlawful activity, adequacy of staffing plans, payment for required criminal record checks and strength of patient education programs.
Martins said the DHHS expects to see applications come in toward the end of the acceptance period.
“I think it’s safe to say we’ve seen a significant level of interest,” he said.