Maine’s Medical Marijuana Law Creates New Challenges: Part 2

Medical marijuana patients are required by state law to report where they get their medicine. Eight dispensaries are allowed across the state. Only one is open right now, so caregivers are also growing the plants for patients.

News 8’s Megan Torjussen takes a look at what it takes to become a caregiver and its challenges.

A caregiver can grow pot, but they don’t necessarily have to be a medical marijuana patient. However, for now, they have to registered with the state and possess a certificate from the state. But some of the details spelled out in the Medical Marijuana Act are still under review by the legislature and other officials.

Don Christen is a medical marijuana user who grows his own plants. Now, he is applying to be a caregiver so he can supply other patients with their medical marijuana needs.

“A friend I know has no way to acquire it or grow it, so he’s asked me. So at this point I’m growing it so I might as well double up on it and help him out,” said Christen

He’s applied for the state-issued card that would allow him to do just that.

The Department of Health and Human services has roughly 300 registered caregivers in the state. Each pays a $300 fee, undergoes a background check and completes an application.

Caregivers are also subject to Department of Health and Human Services inspections with 24-hour notice. That seems simple enough in theory, but some in law enforcement said it isn’t so black and white.

“When you take a look at something like this that was put together and passed quickly, there’s going be a large challenge, a huge challenge for everyone. For law enforcement, for DHHS and for the caregivers,” said York County Sheriff Maurice Ouellette.

Ouellette has about 30 registered caregivers in his jurisdiction, the third highest in the state, but not all are on the up and up.

“One of the biggest challenges is those legitimate growing operations and those who come to take advantage of that, and we’ve already had that here in York County,” Ouellette said.

Bryan Branciforte was arrested in January on charge of aggravated cultivating of marijuana. Two-hundred plants and six ounces of marijuana were seized from his home. Officials said he did have a care givers license, but was abusing it. Charges in the case are still pending. Ouellette said it’s hard to know who is breaking the law, when the law itself is an evolving door.

Seven bills have been introduced this legislative session that would make changes to the law, including one that would decriminalize and even add a 7 percent sales tax. Catherine Cobb with the Department of Health and Human Services oversees the state’s medical marijuana program.

“We’re also having conversations with law enforcement around what it’s like for them to be able to enforce criminal acts under this law,” said Cobb.”

Still, the challenges for law enforcement remain. From knowing how big the plants can grow, to how many a caregiver can have, to how many patients they can grow for. Too many variables make for a gray area and the letter of the law is black and white.

“We are all going to be learning in this, and quite frankly some of the things we learn, we might not like what the outcome is,” said Ouellette.

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