Maine is known for its mouthwatering lobster, picturesque seaside towns, sweet-tart blueberries, and, now, their recreational and medical marijuana. In the 1970s, The Pine Tree State was one of the first few states to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. Over 20 years after decriminalization, Maine residents passed a momentous bill allowing for the medical use of marijuana.
Maine’s medical marijuana program didn’t address the issue of access or distribution until almost a decade after the medical marijuana bill passed. Today, Maine has expanded its initial vague laws to improve accessibility to a larger number of patients. If you’re interested in becoming a medical marijuana patient in Maine, here are a few things you should know to become a registered patient.
Medical Marijuana History
Maine has allowed the use, prescription, and possession of medical marijuana since voters approved Question 2 in 1999 with a 62 percent majority. Despite the big win, Maine’s medical cannabis program lacked the rules or infrastructure to provide patients with access to marijuana. On November 3, 2009, Mainers passed Question 5, which decriminalized the possession of 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana. Municipal legalization started in 2013 in Portland allowing for the possession of 2.5 ounces. South Portland followed suit in 2014.
On November 8, 2016, Maine voters passed Question 1, or the Marijuana Legalization Act, to become the eighth state to legalize recreational possession, consumption, and cultivation of cannabis for personal use. In July 2019, Gov. Janet Mills signed into law recreational marijuana rules for a recreational market launch in March 2020. The law takes effect on September 18, 2019. Cities must opt in to participate in the recreational cannabis industry.
How to Apply for a Medical Card
Before you can get a medical card in Maine, you must obtain a medical marijuana certification from a licensed physician in-person or online. If a doctor recommends medical cannabis for your condition, you can apply for a medical card. Medical marijuana patients don’t have to pay an application fee. On your application, be sure to designate your primary caregivers if needed. If approved, your card will last for one year.
Up until December 2018, Maine’s medical marijuana laws included a list of debilitating qualifying conditions including cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Hepatitis C, nausea, and more. Maine’s new medical marijuana rules did away with the list of qualifying conditions. Now, the decision is up to a licensed medical marijuana doctor. Your doctor will decide if medical marijuana is right for you.
Purchasing, Possession, and Cultivation
Qualifying patients with a valid medical card can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis per visit to a licensed medical dispensary in the state. If you’re an out-of-state medical cannabis patient, you can buy marijuana products at a licensed medical dispensary provided you have a valid medical card and photo ID. Medical cardholders can possess up to 8 pounds of harvested marijuana at any given time. Medical cardholders and caregivers can grow up to 6 mature cannabis plants for personal use.
Under Maine’s medical cannabis laws, you must be 18 or older to consume medical marijuana. Patients younger than 18 must have written consent from their parent or guardian to use medical cannabis. Consuming marijuana in public could land you a $100 fine. Cannabis consumption is also prohibited in a parked vehicle, in public view, or while driving a vehicle, boat, or vessel. All cannabis consumption must be done in a private space.
If you require assistance to purchase and use medical cannabis, you can choose one person, hospice provider, or nursing facility as a primary caregiver. For minor or incapacitated adults, a secondary caregiver is allowed, but only one can cultivate for a patient. If you want to be a caregiver in Maine, consider these conditions:
- You must be 21 years of age or older
- You must not have a prior drug conviction
- You must not care for more than five patients at a time
- You must renew your license every year and pay the following fees:
- $300 renewal fee
- $31 background check fee
- $300 growing fee if you’ll be growing the plant for the patient
Maine does not have any regulations requiring growers or caregivers to test medical cannabis for potency or contaminants. Laws do require dispensaries to have samples available for lab screenings on contaminants such as pesticides, solvents, mold, and heavy metals. Many marijuana dispensaries pay for lab testing from third-party laboratories to make sure that they are offering a safe and pure product.
Maine’s medical marijuana laws can be confusing for first-time patients. All that’s required to get a medical card is a valid medical certification from a doctor and a completed application form from their website. Maine has come a long way: from limited medical cannabis access to a program that boasts tens of thousands of patients who can now alleviate their debilitating conditions with a variety of cannabis products.