Seniors Make Up The Fastest-Growing Demographic of Marijuana Users
Between 2013-2014, people 55 years old and older had the largest increase in marijuana use, according to CBS This Morning. This demographic went from 2,812,000 to 4,309,000 marijuana users in that time frame, according to the segment. This shows that seniors are embracing marijuana at a rapid pace.
Let doctors treat addiction with medical marijuana
By Patricia Callahan
Read the article here: http://callahan.bangordailynews.com/2016/04/22/home/let-doctors-treat-addiction-with-medical-marijuana/#.VxtslJ-sTLs.facebook
I attended a hearing at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday and wanted to share some brief thoughts. I’ve been following the movement to allow prescribers to treat addiction to opiates and other drugs with medical marijuana. This hearing was in response to a petition put forth by Dawson Julia of Unity requesting that the department do so.
Because the hearing room was too small to allow all the attendees in at once, people had to come and go throughout the five hours allotted, and it was hard to gauge exactly how many people were there. I would say more than 50 but less than 100. DHHS staff did a great job escorting folks in and out of the room and allowed each speaker five minutes. The staff person coordinating the flow of attendees told me she had never had so many people come to a petition hearing in her experience.
At first, I spent some time outside talking among the dozens waiting to be let into the room, and I should have taken pics, but it was drizzly and cold, and my old lady fingers can’t work the little buttons on my mom’s little camera once they catch a chill so, sorry — no pics. One of the young men I met, though, appeared on Channel 8 News — click here to see him on video — named Matt Low. Low told me he’s been through a series of attempting to quit opiates, relapsing each time.
Like so many others who testified at the hearing, Low started with prescription medications. By the time he stopped using again a few months ago, he was using four grams of heroin/fentanyl a day. Low said he started his recovery cold turkey this time. After a few days of utter mental and physical desperation, he reached out to someone in the medical marijuana community who specialized in concentrated cannabis products.
In my interviews and in the testimony, people in recovery with cannabis have said concentrates — medical marijuana products with higher levels of the THC and/or CBD components of the plant — have been critical during the immediate withdrawal phase. These people have been able to access marijuana legally for conditions other than addiction and say it helped them come off opiates and other addictive medications.
Low said the caregiver with whom he works (and someone I’ve met writing this series) is providing more than just marijuana products. Low says Dennis Hammoc of Milo instills other recovery tenets in their time together, like purpose. Low says he feels purposeful for the first time in years, and, “For the first time, I feel hope. The other times I tried to quit I didn’t.”
I had too many great conversations to include here, but I did want to highlight a conversation I had with a home health-care professional who works with geriatric clients. Stacy Briggs, a former Coast Guard helicopter mechanic who became a CNA, is continuing her education/certification because she loves working with seniors. Briggs is concerned that seniors are being overlooked in the talk of addiction and other negative side effects from long-term opiate use, and spoke articulately about a couple cases where she thought the over-prescribing of opiates and sleep aids contributed to the deterioration of her clients’ health, behavior and basic safety.
One of those seniors, she said, decided to get certified to use medical marijuana products and was able to cut her use of pain medications by half within a few weeks and is continuing to decrease the amount of pain medications she is taking. Briggs said the client’s cognition and behavior improved almost immediately.
Once in the room, I was able to listen to about three hours of testimony. Some of the folks I’ve been interviewing attended the entire meeting and said only three people had testified against the petition prior to me getting there. I heard another three, including Scott Gagnon who rights the blog Smart Approaches to Public Health, and lawyer Gordon Smith, representing the Maine Medical Association.
As for those testifying against, I have two observations. First, they were all professionals. To the best of my knowledge, not one person in recovery from a substance use disorder testified against the petition.
I didn’t hear anyone stand up and say, “My name is so and so. I am in recovery from such and such, and I think this proposal is dangerous because...”
All the people I heard testifying in favor of the petition were actually in recovery from something or speaking on behalf of someone in recovery. Father after father testified about getting their children back or being better. Parents publicly acknowledging their failures when on opiates and other drugs.
There were also professionals working with people in recovery testifying in favor of the petition, including at least two Maine Medical Association physicians, as Smith observed when he testified in opposition, which brings me to my other observation. The three people I heard testifying against the petition kept bringing up the lack of science behind the proposal, implying it could be dangerous to rely on anecdotal evidence, rather than science.
This argument is problematic because there is some science, and there would be more science were it not for government restrictions. Further, where were all the calls for sound science when it came to the push to use opiates to treat chronic pain longterm — a big part of how we got into this addiction epidemic?
I heard person after person testify about starting their addictions with prescription pain medications.
If there was science behind that push, then that science made people sick. The makers of Oxycontin are paying the state of Kentucky $24 million for the fallout from its marketing practices, presumably based on science. It’s not hard to understand why some of the attendees weren’t feeling the love for the call for science — it did ring a little hollow.
As Smith dismissed their experiences as anecdotal and lacking in significance enough to warrant supporting the petition, he did at least acknowledge that the folks testifying were “sincere.” That he used that word bothered me.
The folks who testified that they had began their addictions following medication regimens prescribed by medical professionals were sincere in their testimony. They were also sincere when they first went to medical professionals to have their conditions treated and were sincere in doing what their doctors told them to do.
Unfortunately, their sincerity and their trust in the medical community led to substance use disorders. I wish Smith had talked about his association’s role in betraying that sincerity. Then I wish he had spoken to his association’s sincerity in trying to control how people clean up the mess members of his association had a hand in making. Without those two qualifying statements, what Smith did say just didn’t sound that sincere to me.
Young fighter for sick children’s access to medical marijuana dies
Cyndimae Meehan, who had a rare form of epilepsy, and her mother were the faces of efforts in Connecticut and Maine to change the laws on pediatric cannabis therapy.
By Gillian Graham - Staff Writer - Portland Press Herald
On her last day, Cyndimae Meehan did the things she loved.
She colored. She played. She took a nap in her father’s arms.
Cyndimae, whose fight for access to medical cannabis to treat a rare form of epilepsy brought her and her mother before lawmakers in Maine and Connecticut, died Sunday while sleeping on her father’s chest on the couch in their Augusta home. She was 13.
“She really spread love and joy and an unbelievable smile everywhere she went, whether it was the State House or a restaurant or riding roller coasters in Florida,” said her mother, Susan Meehan. “She was a unifying force wherever she went.”
Cyndimae had Dravet syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy that begins in infancy. Her parents turned to medical marijuana after many years of trying without success to control Cyndimae’s frequent seizures – sometimes many within an hour – using FDA-approved drugs. Soon after starting the cannabis therapy, they decided it was the best course for their daughter even though their home state of Connecticut doesn’t allow pediatric medical marijuana use.
So Cyndimae became a medical marijuana refugee.
Cyndimae and Susan Meehan moved to Maine 2½ years ago to give Cyndimae consistent and legal access to medical cannabis. During their time in Maine, they became well-known advocates, frequently testifying at the State House on bills that affect the state’s longstanding medical marijuana program. Meehan often testified in both Augusta and Connecticut with Cyndimae by her side.
Last year, Meehan testified in favor of a bill – since passed into law – that allows Maine schools to provide accommodations for children who use medical marijuana. The driving force behind the bill was Cyndimae’s desire to go to school, something her illness had made impossible without access to medical marijuana.
“Cyndimae is probably the biggest advocate we ever brought to Augusta,” Brian Breton, a Meehan family friend and the lead advocate for Maine Children for Cannabis Therapy, said Monday. “She really opened eyes in Augusta.”
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILED, MARIJUANA
Cyndimae began having seizures at 10 months old. For years, her family tried FDA-approved pharmaceuticals to control her seizures, but they often left her in a wheelchair, unable to move on her own and largely unresponsive.
After Cyndimae had tried 23 different anti-epileptic drugs, her neurologist told her parents they were out of options and should try to get her to a state where they could legally try marijuana.
While still living in Connecticut, Susan Meehan found a medical cannabis oil that stopped her daughter’s seizures. She managed to get a 90-day supply, but on the 45th day the grower was arrested and his plants were destroyed by police. Two days after the oil ran out, Cyndimae was back in the hospital.
“Before we made the decision to move, we were losing her. She was always in a wheelchair and she couldn’t eat,” Meehan said.
Meehan moved Cyndimae to the Augusta area, leaving her husband, Robert, and four other daughters behind in Connecticut until last year, when the rest of the family moved to Maine.
While she was taking her cannabis oil, Cyndimae was able to regain her strength and stop using her wheelchair. The difference was remarkable, Breton said. “When I met Cyndimae three years ago, she was in a wheelchair, was unresponsive and had a blank stare on her face. She was a shell of a child,” he said. “Now she runs and laughs and colors and goes swimming. She’s an inspiration to all of us.”
Breton is leading a campaign to raise money for the Meehan family to bring Cyndimae home to Connecticut for her funeral. The youcaring.com Web page he launched Sunday evening generated more than $4,000 in donations in less than a day. Cyndimae’s supporters will celebrate her life in April during a fundraising event for Maine Children for Cannabis Therapy.
Samantha Brown of South Berwick, whose daughter also has Dravet syndrome, first met the Meehans three years ago as each family was embarking on what she calls their “cannabis journey.” She said Cyndimae was a fighter with a smile that captivated everyone around her.
“When I think of Cyndimae, I think of a warrior. She always had a smile on her face,” Brown said. “She’s taught so many people around the world about what she’s gone through and what she does for treatment. She was such a vocal part in this movement in Connecticut and in Maine.”
Cyndimae’s story was well-known in the halls of the State House, said Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, who sponsored the bill to allow patients to take medical marijuana at school. She said Cyndimae’s story helped lawmakers understand the importance of the medical marijuana program for patients.
“Her story is incredibly compelling,” Sanderson said. “It’s not until you actually see the faces of the people who benefit from this, especially the children who have been on a roller coaster of pharmaceuticals, that you really feel the impact.”
SCHOOL DAYS AFTER LAW CHANGES
After the bill to allow medical marijuana in schools became law last year, Augusta immediately put in place rules that allowed Cyndimae to start attending middle school at Cony High School. Meehan said her daughter was so proud to attend school in Augusta starting last September.
“Being with her peers and being able to sit at a table with other kids to eat lunch meant everything to her,” Meehan said. “She loved to be with people.”
Meehan knows her daughter had a big impact in Augusta and beyond, and she plans to continue that fight. But for now, she’s focused on mourning the smiling girl who was treasured by her parents and siblings.
On Monday, Meehan talked about her daughter’s love of roller coasters – the faster the better – and the shock of losing her to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy. Thirteen years ago, the Meehans were told Cyndimae probably wouldn’t live past 2.
“She was a gift every day we had her,” she said.
Maine marijuana legalization bid fails to qualify for ballot
Maine marijuana legalization bid fails to qualify for ballot - The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
The campaign did not obtain the 61,123 valid signatures required to make the ballot because of problems with the signatures of petition circulators and notaries.
AUGUSTA — An effort to decriminalize marijuana in Maine did not qualify for the November ballot.
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said in a statement that the proposal did not have enough valid signatures of Maine voters. The campaign needed 61,123 signatures. According to Dunlap’s office, the campaign only provided 51,543 valid signatures.
The campaign turned in 99,229 signatures on Feb. 1.
According to Maine election officials, over 31,000 signatures were deemed invalid because signatures on petitions swearing that the circulator witnessed signature collection did not match his or her signature on file. One circulator was listed as the public notary on 5,099 petitions containing 26,779 signatures.
Other irregularities included 13,525 signatures that were invalid because they did not belong to a registered voter in the municipality where they were submitted.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol backed the initiative, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.
The push for legalization began with two competing measures, including one backed by a group called Legalize Maine. But the campaigns united behind one proposal in October, after advocates became concerned that having two similar proposals on the ballot would create confusion among voters and split the vote.
The campaign faced opposition from a group formed to prevent legalization, and from parts of the medical marijuana community in Maine. When campaign supporters delivered petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office in Augusta in February, they were met by protesters who said that local medical marijuana growers and patients could be hurt if the referendum passed.
If Maine were to legalize recreational marijuana, it would join a small number of Western states that allow adults to buy and possess the drug. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., have passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana despite a federal prohibition. Legalization referendums are expected to be considered this year in Nevada, California, Arizona, Michigan, Massachusetts and Vermont.
Maine has allowed medical marijuana since 1999 and the program has become increasingly popular in recent years. Last year, Mainers spent $23.6 million on medical marijuana from the state’s eight dispensaries, a 46 percent jump from the previous year. Those numbers don’t include sales to patients from the more than 2,200 caregivers licensed to grow and sell marijuana to patients.
The state cannot provide an exact number of patients because it does not keep a registry, but doctors have printed more than 35,000 certificates required under state regulations to certify patients. That number could include duplicates and replacement certificates and is likely higher than the actual number of patients, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the medical marijuana program.
The legalization bill would have allowed adults to possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana and to cultivate a limited number of plants. Retail stores and social clubs would be allowed with municipal approval. Adults would be prohibited from using marijuana in public, with violations punishable by a $100 fine. The bill also places a sales tax of 10 percent on retail marijuana and marijuana products.
Staff Writer Gillian Graham contributed to this report.
THC OUI Blood Testing
On Tuesday March 1st the House of Representatives approved (under the hammer, without debate or roll-call) a request by the Criminal Justice Committee to develop a bill to set a limit on how much THC in a person’s blood qualifies the driver as criminally operating under the influence.
A Public Hearing on LD 1628, “An Act To Strengthen the Laws on Operating a Motor Vehicle under the Influence of Intoxicants” is scheduled for Wednesday, March 2nd, starting at 2:30, immediately followed by a work session and committee vote.
The text of LD 1628 can be found at: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_127th/billtexts/SP066101.asp
The Federal Office of National Drug Control Policy is pressing any state that passes legislation to regulate marijuana like alcohol and allow retail sale to set a 5 nanogram THC blood level to prove OUI charges. THC OUI blood test laws have been enacted in the Colorado, Washington, Illinois, and Arizona.
Last spring, the former toxicologist for the State Crime Lab submitted a letter to the Criminal Justice Committee that there is no scientific evidence of a relationship between blood THC levels and impairment, and implementation would be costly and create more legal problems than it solves, while criminalizing law-abiding citizens.
The Secretary of State to organized a work-group this summer to recommend legislation in 2016 in order to deal with anticipated problems resulting from regulating marijuana like alcohol.
In the report back by the Secretary of State in January included recommendations that the committee develop a bill to set a 0 to 7 ng THC blood-based OUI standard as a precautionary action to prepare for anticipated problems resulting from recreational use and retail sale of marijuana.
When looking for effective ways to evaluate impairment in the workplace, a February 2016 Report on Substance Abuse, Marijuana, Medical Marijuana, and the Maine Employer Substance Abuse by the Maine Department of Labor found that:
“Impairment is not correlated with dosage or system levels of some substances of abuse, including marijuana. There is no “impairment level” for THC as there is for blood alcohol, and testing for levels of cannabinoids in one’s bloodstream or urine is not effective in determining how much the person is impaired. Impairment is also as likely to be caused by other substances and, at times, by the proper dosages of prescribed drugs.
Maine law already allows law enforcement to charge a person with operating under the influence of marijuana, with the determination of OUI based on a combination of factors, including a manual field sobriety test. There is no blood test used to determine whether a person is driving impaired under the influence of marijuana, just as there’s no blood test to determine whether a person is driving under the influence of prescription painkillers.
Last year the Maine legislature voted to reject a bill that would have required blood testing of any driver involved in a fatal accident to determine if drugs were present in the system causing impairment. That bill was voted down because of the high cost of testing and the fact that most blood-based drug tests need to be sent out of state. If blood-based drug tests are going to be implemented to determine impairment, all potentially impairing medications need to be considered.
The House and Senate are expected to vote on this bill Thursday, March 3rd, so it will be important for Representatives and Senators to hear from their constituents asking them respectfully to vote no on LD1628 and take the time needed to find less costly and more effective ways to stop impaired driving. Find your legislators’ contact information at: http://legislature.maine.gov/house/townlist.htm
The best way to attack this is to write a testimony and send it to the committee clerk. Followed up by a call to your representative. If you can be at the hearing with written testimony (20 copies) it is scheduled for 2:30 and may have a late start.
LD 1628 PUBLIC HEARING March 2nd, 2016
2:30 pm TODAY • March 2nd, 2016 in Room 436 at the State House
Don't let the legislature criminalize Medical Marijuana Patients!
The bill does the following:
1. It establishes a permissible inference of operating under the influence of intoxicants when a person operates a motor vehicle and has a level of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, of 5 nanograms or more per milliliter of blood
2. It establishes a permissible inference of operating under the influence of intoxicants when a person operates a motor vehicle and has a level of THC of 2 nanograms or more per milliliter of blood and an alcohol level of 0.05 grams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 liters of breath;
3. It establishes a 0.00 nanogram level for THC for a person under 21 years of age and provides an affirmative defense for marijuana use in compliance with the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act; and
4. It permits a qualified law enforcement officer, without making an arrest, to request that a person who the officer reasonably believes has been operating under the influence take a preliminary breath test for alcohol level and allows the results to be used to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the person was operating under the influence.
Having many patients and caregivers attend this Public Hearing is very important! Come stand up for your rights!
Maine medical marijuana bill allows for lab testing and hospital access
"To clarify a couple of miss statements in the article... Caregivers are only allowed 5 patients with six flowering plants each. And the quote from Catherine Lewis was only asking for cap removal on patient count not plant count."
by SCOTT THISTLE, State Politics Editor, Sun Journal
AUGUSTA — A legislative committee unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that would give immunity from state law to hospitals that allow nonsmoking marijuana for patients who need it.
The bill, LD 726, also defines in law what incidental marijuana is, including nonflowering plants or plant byproducts that have not yet been processed into medicinal products.
Currently, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has rules defining incidental marijuana, but those rules are not in the statute. Under the current rules, a medical marijuana caregiver is allowed to have up to 8 pounds of incidental marijuana.
The legislation, approved by the Health and Human Services Committee, also sets up a lab-testing regime to certify the quality of medicinal marijuana products to ensure proper dosages and potency levels for patients, especially children who have epileptic seizures. That change would also allow for labeling of medical marijuana products to certify their quality and content.
That change would set the same quality standards for medical marijuana caregivers, who can grow up to five plants per patient with a maximum of six patients, and the eight medicinal marijuana dispensaries scattered across Maine.
But due to concern over possible opposition from Republican Gov. Paul LePage and others in the Legislature, the lawmakers on the committee put the brakes on a pair of other provisions they were contemplating, including one that would increase the amount of excess marijuana a caregiver could sell to another caregiver or dispensary, or a dispensary could sell to another dispensary. That change would have upped the limit from 2 pounds to 5 pounds.
The committee also backed away from a provision that would have allowed dispensaries in Maine to transition into for-profit companies. Current state law requires them to be nonprofit entities. But because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, they cannot obtain any official nonprofit status or benefit.
That didn't stop a number of lawmakers Wednesday from expressing their support for those provisions.
"I don't see the harm in moving forward with a business model here," said Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland. "I also have been supportive of caregivers and the expansion of caregivers. I think it's right; I think it should go forward. I've been a supporter of the industry and I will not turn my back on it."
But looming in the background on all of the discussion is the possibility that Maine voters in November will have an opportunity to make recreational marijuana legal under state law, a move that would likely have a reverberating effect on the state's medical marijuana industry.
The change to a for-profit model would more readily allow the state's largest medical marijuana growers and dispensaries to establish themselves in a fledgling recreational marijuana industry if approved by voters in November.
"Being a big proponent of the free market, I kind of tend to support any chance we can to expand free-market principles in the industry," said Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn. He said he supports allowing dispensaries to become for-profit businesses, but he also supports the idea that caregivers should be allowed to convert to dispensaries as they grow and that patient caps for caregivers should be eliminated.
"Whatever path we can take to allow the free market to operate more in this industry, I support," said Brakey, the Senate chairman of the committee.
But both of those ideas and others that could be viewed as expanding access to marijuana are unlikely to gain the support of anti-drug conservatives in the Legislature and could face opposition from LePage in the form of a veto.
But representatives from both the caregivers and the dispensaries offered testimony in support of the new regulations for lab-testing quality control and setting in law definitions for incidental marijuana that has not yet been processed into medical products.
"Believe it or not, the dispensaries and caregivers have really been reaching out to each other in trying to work together, in trying to move the program forward without so much negativity, which is very nice," said Catherine Lewis, the director of education for the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, a trade group.
Lewis said her group did have concerns about allowing dispensaries to move to a for-profit model without also allowing caregivers to expand their businesses by removing patient and plant limits currently on the books.
It's an issue that hasn't been lost on lawmakers, including Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, one of the ranking Republicans on the committee.
"I would like to see the entire industry be able to flourish and let the market decide the winners and the losers, not the regulatory pieces that we sit in here and make the decisions on," Sanderson said. "I am very uncomfortable in allowing — in the most simplistic terms here — something that allows for the growth of Wal-Marts and puts limitations on the mom and pops."
Sanderson said caregivers in Maine had created thousands of jobs geographically dispersed around the state, including in some of Maine's most economically depressed areas. Sanderson said she would fight for parity for the little guy but ultimately, she wanted to advance legislation that had support.
"We need to decide as a committee today, where do we want to push the boundaries and get as many more yards down the field as we can get to move this program forward," Sanderson said.
Other lawmakers on the committee agreed they should try to move forward with legislation that appeared to be politically possible and then develop new bills for changes that are likely to be more controversial or could change, depending on what voters decide in November.
Also likely to derail any state legislation could be changes at the federal level, including a rumored pending executive order from President Barack Obama that would remove medical marijuana from the federal government's list of prohibited scheduled drugs, said Rep. Richard Malaby, R-Hancock.
Malaby said that while he could support the other provisions, he believed it would be in the best interest of the committee to take incremental steps.
Others, including Rep. Patricia Hymanson, D-York, said they supported the need to improve quality controls to ensure dosage safety and effectiveness for patients, and they didn't want to sacrifice achieving that in law for the sake of the other provisions.
"I think the labs are extraordinarily important for patient safety, and I wouldn't want to see that compromised in any way by putting it together with other things that could make that fall apart," Hymanson said.
Brakey said regardless of the outcome of a potential November ballot question on recreational marijuana, Maine was going to continue to have a thriving medical marijuana industry, and he intended to advance legislation in the future to support it.
"I think the medical marijuana program is here to stay," Brakey said. "It's very important for patients who are struggling with these sicknesses and diseases, and it's been very helpful for them. And this committee is going to continue working on the medical marijuana program, making it one of the strongest in the country and maintaining that, regardless of what happens with recreational marijuana."
The bill will return to the committee for a final language review before it is moved to the full Legislature for votes in the weeks ahead.
The Truth Summit on Medical Marijuana in Maine
The Truth Summit on Medical Marijuana in Maine was held on 2/06/16 at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast. Speakers discussed the current status of Maine medical marijuana laws; current uses of medical marijuana, such as cancer treatment and drug/opiate dependency; continuing bureaucratic problems for veterans and their use of medical marijuana and a historical review of drug/opiate addiction in Maine since the 1800s.
Sponsored by Maine medical marijuana patients and caregivers in Knox and Waldo Counties for public education.
Charges against Montville couple show tension between law enforcement, medical marijuana law
Photoes by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer
MONTVILLE — By the time investigators from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency completed their 12-hour search at the Montville home of Randy and Margot Hayes, they had chopped down 57 marijuana plants – some as tall as 7 feet and visible from Center Road – and seized 11 pounds of marijuana. Inside the home, they had found bags and totes of marijuana and signs the couple were selling pot.
The Hayeses, longtime medical marijuana patients, now face up to five years in prison for felony drug trafficking and misdemeanor marijuana cultivation charges in what appears to be an open-and-shut case of illegal drug dealing. The number of marijuana plants found growing at their home, for example, far exceeds the six flowering and 12 nonflowering plants each patient is allowed to possess under the state’s medical marijuana law.
But the Hayeses say the case isn’t what it appears to be – and others in the state’s medical marijuana community are rallying around the couple, saying they are the victims of overly aggressive drug enforcement and ambiguity in the state’s medical marijuana rules.
Randy Hayes, who has a previous conviction for misdemeanor drug trafficking, says many of the plants seized by agents belonged to five other medical marijuana patients who were growing on his land. He says he and his wife were trying to comply with the law, but didn’t realize the plants had to be in separate secure enclosures.
Their supporters argue that the number of plants seized wasn’t over the limit for seven patients because, at that time of the year – mid-August – marijuana plants growing outdoors haven’t reached the flowering stage. So none of the plants was yet producing any of the psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol.
The Hayeses and their supporters also say the 11 pounds of marijuana seized by agents didn’t violate the law because each patient is allowed to have up to 8 pounds of unprocessed marijuana, though the exact definition of unprocessed marijuana isn’t clear to them under the medical marijuana program rules.
The Hayeses are scheduled to appear in court again Tuesday. Meanwhile, the case has developed into one of the highest-profile medical marijuana prosecutions in Maine. Others in the medical marijuana community are holding events to raise money for the couple’s legal defense and watching the outcome closely.
“Alarmed would be the big word,” said Dawson Julia, a caregiver from Unity and a supporter of the couple. “If we make a mistake in our business practices, we shouldn’t be thrown in jail for it. It seems like people are getting in trouble for what would be considered a small violation in another industry.”
But Roy McKinney, director of the MDEA, sees things differently. He said his agency handles a small number of marijuana cases – likely fewer than 100 a year – because most of their resources are used to combat the state’s heroin, opioid and methamphetamine problems. The only recourse for a violation of the medical marijuana law is criminal action, he said.
“Either you’re in compliance or you’re in violation of criminal law,” he said. ‘There’s no gray area there.”
INDUSTRY TAKES ROOT
What happens in the Hayes case will have implications for a medical marijuana industry that has taken root and flourished, attracting a growing number of patients and caregivers. That’s especially true in rural areas, where residents don’t have easy access to any of the state’s eight licensed dispensaries.
Maine is one of 34 states that allow some form of medical cannabis. Maine legalized medical uses in 1999, and the state’s first dispensaries opened in 2011. Last year, Maine’s program was voted the best medical marijuana program in the country by Americans for Safe Access, a national group that advocates for legal access to the drug.
The state cannot provide an exact number of patients because it does not keep a registry, but doctors have printed more than 35,000 certificates required under state regulations to certify patients. That number could include duplicates and replacement certificates and is likely higher than the actual number of patients, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. There are eight dispensaries across the state and more than 2,200 caregivers authorized to provide medical marijuana to patients.
In 2015, Mainers spent $23.6 million on marijuana from dispensaries, a 46 percent jump from the previous year. Those sales – which don’t include caregivers – generated $1.29 million in sales tax.
The Hayeses pleaded not guilty during their initial court appearance Dec. 11 in Waldo County Unified Court. Judge Patricia Worth set their bail at $500 unsecured each and set conditions that they cannot use or possess illegal drugs. They each face up to five years in prison for the felony drug trafficking charge and no more than a year in prison for the misdemeanor marijuana cultivation charge.
The Waldo County District Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, did not respond to requests for comment.
MDEA AGENTS SHOW UP
The Hayeses live in a 200-year-old farmhouse on Center Road with their two children, whom they home-school. For year, they have grown their own medical marijuana on their property, Five Star Pharm.
Randy Hayes said he has used medical marijuana for many years to treat various medical conditions, including chronic back spasms, because he prefers not to use pharmaceutical drugs. He was convicted of a misdemeanor drug trafficking charge and paid a $500 fine after 22 ounces of marijuana was found on his property in 1998, before the state’s medical marijuana program was in place. He said he had the marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Margot Hayes, 46, has no criminal record. She said she is certified as a medical marijuana patient under a qualifying chronic eye condition, but also finds medical cannabis useful for other ailments.
Until the raid last August, they grew their plants in their side yard, separated from the road by an 8-foot picket fence. Randy Hayes, a 57-year-old former selectman, allowed five friends who are also patients to grow their plants in his yard, free of charge. He said he was teaching them how to grow their own medicine.
Their plants caught the attention of two special agents with the MDEA as they drove down Center Road on Aug. 18. They pulled into the driveway of the Hayes home to talk to the homeowner about the plants, which could be seen over the top of the fence that separated the yard from the road, according to an MDEA investigative report. Randy Hayes told the agents he and his wife were medical marijuana patients.
“(Randy) Hayes was told that the best case scenario is that Hayes shows us that his plants were in compliance. Hayes was told that from where we were standing if Hayes wasn’t perfectly in compliance, he was close, and we would shake hands and leave,” Special Agent Max King wrote in an investigative report. “But if there were vast violations we would handle it differently.”
Randy Hayes walked the investigating agents around the edge of his property where the marijuana plants were growing, but the area was not entirely surrounded by fencing as required, according to the MDEA report. He declined to consent to a search. Agents instead secured a search warrant because of the plants that were visible from the road.
During the search, investigators found 57 marijuana plants in the yard and on a deck, drying marijuana hanging in the barn and what agents described as “loose” marijuana in jars, bags and a plastic tote in various rooms of the house. A man who stopped by the house while MDEA agents were there told investigators that he had been buying marijuana from Randy Hayes weekly for the past two years, according to the investigative report.
Under the rules of the medical marijuana program, patients and caregivers who are not related must grow their plants in separate enclosures. Each patient is allowed to possess up to 2½ ounces of prepared marijuana, six mature plants, 12 female nonflowering plants and up to 8 pounds of unprepared marijuana in varying stages of processing. Only licensed caregivers and dispensaries are allowed to sell marijuana to patients.
The investigative report does not indicate whether the plants were mature or nonflowering, but did describe them as healthy and abundant.
Logan Perkins, a Bangor attorney who represents Randy Hayes, believes the MDEA charged the Hayeses with criminal violations for what should have been an administrative issue with the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the medical marijuana program.
“Those are administrative rules about how you have to conduct yourself to be on the right side of the medial marijuana program,” she said. “Those are not criminal laws. If you’re in violation of a rule, that does not mean you’re in violation of a criminal law.”
The Hayeses did not realize each patient’s plants had to be secured in separate enclosures, according to their attorneys. Each plant was documented so they knew who it belonged to, but their defense attorneys declined to describe the arrangement in more detail. State law prohibits the creation of collectives where caregivers grow marijuana together.
“They were under the impression that putting one fence around the entire thing was the proper way to do it,” said Chris McCabe, a Portland attorney who represents Margot Hayes.
Supporters of the Hayeses hosted a potluck meal and concert Saturday to raise money for their legal defense. G.W. Martin, a former caregiver from Montville who has known the couple for years, hosted the party at his farm. He said many people in the area know the Hayeses, whom he describes as active and charitable members of the community.
“Everybody hopes the best for them,” he said. “We’re all trying to do our best to follow the rules and we’re all behind Randy and Margot. These unclear rules affect everyone statewide.”
Under the medical marijuana program, patients and caregivers do not undergo regular inspections to make sure they are complying with the regulations. Because of that, it can be tricky for patients and caregivers to comply with every aspect of the law, advocates say.
Caregivers in states with medical marijuana programs often operate with very little oversight. Most states do not regularly inspect caregivers to ensure they are growing the proper number of plants and are following the rules, according to a 2015 investigation by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program, a national multimedia investigative reporting project.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the medical marijuana program, declined to comment for this story.
King Bishop, a longtime patient and advocate from nearby Morrill, said there are many patients and caregivers across the state who are frustrated with “gray areas” of the law and want to see more clarity in the rules. Much of that frustration centers on what actually qualifies as a collective and how to define the various stages of marijuana so patients and caregivers know how to properly store it without violating the rules. Violations of those rules should be handled by DHHS, not law enforcement, he said.
“We’re seeing rule violations turn into felonies in the state,” Bishop said. “That’s dangerous. How can a patient who has a legal right to grow be charged with illegal cultivation?”
Randy Hayes said the situation has been stressful for his family, both because of the criminal charges and because they cannot afford to buy medical marijuana from dispensaries. He said they hope to grow their own plants next season and will continue to push to clarify the medical marijuana regulations, regardless of the outcome of their cases.
“Out of all this madness, I want to see clarity for the patients and caregivers in the state of Maine,” he said. “There’s a rulebook that everybody goes by, but the gray areas are not a good thing.”
15.12.09 MMCM Networking Meeting in Augusta
50 members of the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine came together for a networking meeting at Margarita's in Augusta on Wednesday, December 9, 2015. Members shared names and status (patient and/or caregiver), stories of recovery due to medical marijuana and the continuing legal hassle of being a caregiver. Due to state required restaurant room size, some members had to be turned away, prompting the search for a larger venue in the Augusta area.
Links to news articles about Marijuana in Maine.
Please consider donating to us so we can continue to represent patients and caregivers in Augusta and beyond!
Medical Marijuana Advocates Gather At State House http://wabi.tv/2014/03/28/medical-marijuana-advocates-gather-state-house/
Parents Turn To Medical Marijuana To Help Sick Baby http://www.weartv.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/health-news-desperate-parents-turn-medical-marijuana-help-sick-baby-41697.shtml
State DHHS to Maine legislators: Let armed agents join inspections of licensed pot growers http://www.pressherald.com/news/State_to_legislators__Let_armed_agents_join_inspections_of_licensed_pot_growers_.html
Maine Marijuana Growers Cheer Federal Banking Guidelines http://www.mpbn.net/News/MaineNewsArchive/tabid/181/ctl/ViewItem/mid/3475/ItemId/32269/Default.aspx
FinCEN Issues New Marijuana Banking Guidelines http://www.fincen.gov/news_room/nr/html/20140214.html
Maine's Proposed Ban on Kief Runs Into Fierce Opposition http://www.pressherald.com/news/Maine_bill_to_ban_pot_crystals_called__kief__runs_into_fierce_opposition_.html
Maine Cannabis Industry Opposes Proposed Kief Ban https://mmjbusinessdaily.com/maines-proposed-kief-ban-comes-under-fire/
Doctor Shares Experience With Medical Marijuana and PTSD http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20140213/OPINION/140212016/Letter-Doctor-shares-experience-medical-pot-?nclick_check=1
Maine MMJ Job Fair Sets Shining Example https://mmjbusinessdaily.com/maine-mmj-group-holds-job-fair-in-beleaguered-town/
Marijuana Trade Group Visits Beleaguered Mill Town http://www.mainebiz.biz/article/20140210/NEWS0101/140219996
Acton Couple Turning To Marijuana For Toddler http://www.wgme.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/acton-couple-turning-medical-marijuana-toddler-20958.shtml#.UwVw9O0f-pE
Maine Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Want Legal Ok to use more organic pesticides http://bangordailynews.com/2014/02/06/politics/maine-medical-marijuana-growers-want-legal-ok-to-use-more-organic-pesticides/
Medical Marijuana Bills Scheduled for Public Hearings http://www.portlanddailysun.me/index.php/newsx/local-news/11338-medical-marijuana-bills-scheduled-for-public-hearings
Medical Marijuana for Painkiller Addiction http://bangordailynews.com/2014/02/05/opinion/the-elephant-in-the-room-why-do-we-overlook-medical-marijuana-for-addictive-painkillers/
PTSD added to list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, group reports http://www.portlanddailysun.me/index.php/newsx/news-briefs/9656-ptsd-added-to-list-of-qualifying-conditions-for-medical-marijuana-group-reports
Local Combat Veteran Believes Medicinal Marijuana Can Help Treat PTSD http://freepressonline.com/main.asp?SectionID=52&SubSectionID=78&ArticleID=26993
PTSD added to list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana treatment http://bangordailynews.com/2013/06/30/news/state/ptsd-added-to-list-of-qualifying-conditions-for-medical-marijuana-treatment/
Maine Allows Medical Marijuana For PTSD, As New Hampshire Passes Similar Legislation http://www.medicaldaily.com/maine-allows-medical-marijuana-ptsd-new-hampshire-passes-similar-legislation-247175
August 5, 2012, Boston Globe
Medical marijuana patients in Section 8 housing will not face eviction due to their patient-status this winter!
The Maine State Housing Authority Board of Commissioners voted today in favor of a 6 month moratorium on implementing their plan that would have evicted patients who were growing, using, or in possession of their medical marijuana from all housing under MSHA jurisdiction.
Many thanks to Rep Deb Sanderson, Alysia Melnick of the ACLU of Maine, Paul T. McCarrier of MMCM, and caregivers John Stewart and Amy Green for great testimony that helped change the minds of MSHA commissioners!
Many thanks as well to patient Don LaRouche for his courage in speaking out sharing his personal story of how this change would directly affect him. His presence at the meeting had a definite effect on the commissioners.
Between now and April it is very important that other patients who would be affected by the MSHA's proposed ban speak out and share their stories so we can make sure that at the end of the moratorium, the ban does not go into effect. If you would like to share your story, please be in touch. Your full name does not have to be used.
Maine Housing to Hold Off On Enforcing Housing Ban - BDN
Maine Housing Puts Medical Marijuana Ban on Hold - KJ
Maine Housing Delays Implementation of Medical Pot Ban - MPBN
Thanks for your support, and remember that MMCM members get free admission to Home Grown Maine on Saturday, November 10th in Portland!
The forms for patients to designate a caregiver,
applications to register as a caregiver,
for a caregiver to register an employee can be found at:
MAINE COMPASS: Medical marijuana program faces uncertainty from new rules
Paul T. McCarrier, Hillary Lister and Alisha Melnick
Imagine that you have Crohn's disease, terminal cancer or chronic pain from a serious car accident. You'vetried all the drugs out there, but they make you nauseated, withdrawn or cause severe headaches.
When you try to stop taking them, you feel anxious and crampy and can't sleep. You're scared because friends have gotten hooked on some of these drugs, and you know someone who died from an overdose.
The one thing that allows you to eat, sleep, or function semi-normally is marijuana.
The cannabis plant has never been the cause of an overdose, and is proven to have a wide range of medical benefits with few side effects.
You've talked with your doctor, who agrees marijuana would be the best treatment for you, but clarifies that it will not be covered under any health plan. You'll have to grow it or buy it.
James is an older man who suffers from pain caused by a genetic disease. He lives in Waldo, off the grid and on limited income, so he can't afford to buy his medical marijuana.
He's been able to avoid many of the narcotics he could be prescribed by being able to grow his own marijuana.
Now the Department of Health & Human Services is proposing rules would require the fence around his plants to be 8 feet tall, with motion-sensitive lighting, more than 25 feet from a property line, with other yet undefined "security measures," making it unaffordable and functionally impossible for him to legally cultivate.
Maine has allowed medical use of cannabis since 1999 with minimal fanfare, public attention or concern. Patients worked with their doctors to get their medicine of choice, but both found the law too limiting.
In 2009, Maine citizens overwhelmingly voted to expand the medical marijuana program, creating a dispensary system, allowing more people to become caregivers for patients, and creating an optional state registry for patients.
Following the 2009 citizen's initiative, a task force was set up that was supposed to implement the changes to the law, but instead veered away from the intent of the initiative. Legislation and rules were rushed through with little public input requiring patients to register with the DHHS and doctors to disclose private medical information, removing legal protections from arrest and effectively banning outdoor growing.
The law was reformed in 2011 by LD 1296, a bill sponsored by Rep. Deb Sanderson, R-Chelsea, which restored the intent of the initiative by making registration voluntary for patients, bringing back legal protections from arrest and ensuring protected outdoor growing in an enclosed, locked facility. The bill passed with unanimous approval from the House and Senate, a rare example of bipartisan consensus.
The ACLU of Maine and the patients and caregivers who make up Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine were integrally involved in both the 2009 citizens' initiative and the 2011 law. Both were explicitly intended to protect patients who care for themselves. In a rural state such as Maine, for many, that means outdoor growing.
We've talked to many people who collected signatures for the 2009 initiative and were regularly asked whether outdoor growing would be permitted; they consistently answered yes. When we were asked by legislators, constituents and the press whether the 2011 bill would permit outdoor growing, we consistently answered yes.
It was clearly the intent of the people, the bill drafters, the legislators and the governor's office to allow patient access through outdoor cultivation.
Given the financial realities for many Mainers these days, and the fact that marijuana is not covered by health insurance (unlike pharmaceutical pills), use of nature's low-cost grow room is the only way they are able to obtain their medicine.
The proposed rule changes would cut off access to a safe, affordable treatment. Many people who benefit from the ability to grow their own medicine have been able to wean off dependence on pharmaceutical medications that were causing unwanted side effects.
Maine has become a national model on how to have a responsible, state-regulated, patient-focused program.
If the rules are enacted as written, it will go against Gov. Paul LePage's stated goal of getting people off state aid, require patients to turn to subsidized pharmaceutical medications, and place unnecessary burdens on Maine people when they can least afford it.
Paul T. McCarrier is the legislative liaison and Hillary Lister is the president of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, the state's largest medical marijuana trade organization. Alisha Melnick is public policy counsel for ACLU of Maine.