A Letter to Senator Susan Deschambault

Susan,

I’ll briefly introduce myself, as I’ve just purchased my home in your district.  I was a lifelong resident of Saco and I’ve made the trek across the river to a beautiful farm property we’re thrilled to be rehabbing and making our own.  I own a few businesses based in the area primarily in medical cannabis, retail and real estate.  I employ about forty people across those businesses.

I am writing to you today because I am highly concerned about proposed changes put forward by the Office of Marijuana Policy.  The OMP in Maine is quite new in relation to our industry and I believe their lack of experience and outside influence from lobbyists has led them astray.  My understanding is that you are someone who has stood up for their constituents throughout your career, and I’m hoping that we can work together so that legislators understand what is happening to one of Maine’s largest and fastest growing industries: Medical Cannabis.

Recently the OMP has presented industry crushing rule changes that are not based in fact OR in statute.  They have vastly overreached their rulemaking authority.  It has become quite evident that the big cannabis lobbyists are in control in Augusta.  The proposed changes will squeeze out small business owners, making it so only the largest, with vast resources, may survive.  My business is pretty good size, and while we may be fairly equipped to deal with changes, 80% of Maine’s 3000 small cannabis businesses are at risk of having their business closed.  All of this during a global pandemic.

The proposed changes are being justified by the OMP under the guise of “National Best Practices” and “Safety” which are both fallacies.  The OMP has contracted with a Colorado based consultant who has rubber stamped rules in multiple states.  There are no such thing as “National Best Practices,” but there are many instances of lobbyists writing rules in favor of big business all across our nation.

The lobbyists for years have pushed a “Drug War” based agenda treating small cannabis business owners as criminals.  For years the dispensary lobby has promoted that caregivers are criminals and do not pay their taxes.  Well, since reporting and inspection requirements changed in 2018, that turned out to be false.  Now that Maine Revenue tracks sales, we know that we have a $266 Million industry on our hands, sales primarily from small, Maine owned caregiver businesses.  And out of 1100 inspections?  Just 3 license revocations.  Do you think the OMP freely shares this information?  No, because it does not fit their narrative.  So we have to fight for this information through FOIA requests.

There are a number of things we should be asking the OMP, and you should be asking them:

  1. How does the department currently collect data about the medical and adult use programs? What data is being collected within both programs?
  2. Can this data be made available for the committee and public?
  3. Who did the department receive input on the rules, prior to informal review from, both from within the administration, consultants and stakeholders? How did the department decide who to take input from?
  4. Can you describe the Department’s consultation with DHS?
  5. Are all of the rules in this proposal directly driven by new statutory requirements? If we went item by item, would each piece clearly map to a statute section?
  6. Do you expect there to be a large economic impact statement with the forthcoming  proposed rulemaking? Can you discuss how that will be analyzed & by whom?  This is a requirement in all state rulemaking.
  7. I’ve heard from constituents that much of the proposed rulemaking seems to mirror adult use requirements—are titles 22 & 28 similar in statutory language?
  8. Could you elaborate on the consulting contract OMP has for the medical program and rules & what other work has been contracted through that group as currently organized or in previous iterations?
  9. What kind of feedback have you gotten on these rules from the industry & patients?
  10. You describe the industry as ‘doing just fine’…can you elaborate on how you came to that conclusion? What is the size of the average business in the medical program? Relative to the adult use program?
  11. Would you characterize it as reasonable to place the same requirements on a cultivator of 30 plan facility versus a cultivator of 20,000+ SF, or a cultivator of unlimited canopy like the dispensaries?

I appreciate your time in looking into this matter.  It has put the livelihood of tens of thousands of Mainers at risk in favor of wall street owned cannabis companies, and it is not something we can stand for.

Brett Messer
Owner and General Manager
Brigid Farm

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