Pubdate: Sat, 15 Jun 2013
Source: Portland Press Herald (ME)
Copyright: 2013 MaineToday Media, Inc.
Author: Michael Shepherd


The Measure Will Take Effect As Soon As It Is Signed by Gov. Lepage, 
Whose Administration Supports It.

AUGUSTA - Medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine will be allowed to 
treat plants with certain low-risk pesticides if a bill enacted 
Friday by the Legislature becomes law.

L.D. 1531, an emergency measure sponsored by Sen. Thomas Saviello, 
R-Wilton, a former chairman of the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, 
passed in the House without a roll-call vote Friday. The Senate 
passed it Thursday.

The measure would take effect as soon as it is signed by Gov. Paul 
LePage, whose administration supports the bill.

The bill would amend Department of Health and Human Services rules 
that prohibit the use of any pesticide on marijuana plants -- even a 
natural substance such as vegetable oil.

"Having anything in your arsenal is better than having nothing," said 
Glenn Peterson, who owns Canuvo, a dispensary in Biddeford. "It's a 
good thing."

The DHHS supports the bill, which was prompted by the department's 
investigation in March of Wellness Connection of Maine, the nonprofit 
operator of four of Maine's eight dispensaries, in Portland, 
Hallowell, Thomaston and Brewer.

Investigators found 20 violations of state law and program rules, 
from pesticide use to security breaches to a managerial conflict of interest.

The state said nine types of pesticides were used at Wellness 
Connection's cultivation site in Auburn, violating medical-marijuana 
program rules prohibiting pesticides.

However, Kenneth Albert, director of the DHHS's Division of Licensing 
and Regulatory Services, which oversees the program, allowed 
marijuana treated with pesticides to be sold because the pesticides 
were substances that anyone can apply to virtually any plant.

The Portland Press Herald, after requesting an analysis from the 
Maine Board of Pesticides Control, reported that five of the nine 
pesticides the group was cited for using contain active ingredients 
that are safe for many uses and federally approved for use on tobacco.

On Friday, Albert said the DHHS supports the bill because it would 
help patients to access marijuana from state-regulated dispensaries.

"That particular crop is challenging to grow without pesticides," he said.

Substances allowed under the bill would be determined, in part, by a 
list of more than 30 active ingredients that are exempt from federal 
regulation because they are deemed virtually harmless, including 
sesame oil, soybean oil and peppermint oil.

Albert said that, under the bill, each pesticide also would have to 
be registered for use in Maine, and its label would have to indicate 
that it can be used on all plants. If the substance were to be used 
on marijuana plants that would be turned into edible products, it 
would face more scrutiny, he said.

Paul McCarrier, a lobbyist for Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, 
a frequent critic of Wellness Connection, called the bill the 
dispensaries' "flagship piece of legislation" this session.

His group, which represents small-scale medical-marijuana growers, 
didn't take a position on the bill.

He said that while most small-time growers don't use pesticides on 
plants, dispensaries need a way to treat plants so that pests such as 
spider mites don't infest large growing areas.

Wellness Connection served about 2,400 patients in March, according 
to state figures.

"I don't think it's very controversial," McCarrier said of the bill.
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