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Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program on Fire Over Past Year

A new report shows that the number of medical marijuana patients in Maine has surged in the past year.

Maine’s medical marijuana program grew by 36 percent last year, according to a new report for Marijuana Business Daily. New data provided in the latest annual report from the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Program shows that Maine medical providers printed 51,324 patient certifications for medical cannabis in 2016, up from 37,675 printed in 2015.

Maine’s medical marijuana patient registry is voluntary, but according to Marijuana Business Daily, industry experts believe the patient certifications figure is within 5 percent of the actual number of active patients. With a state population of about 1.3 million, this would mean approximately 4 percent of Mainers are certified as medical marijuana patients. The enrollment in other states with similar programs is typically around 1 to 2 percent of the population.

A significant portion of the new patient base appears to be obtaining their cannabis through caregivers rather than dispensaries. Maine’s law allows caregivers over the ages of 21 and older to cultivate cannabis for a registered patient. The 2016 program report found that individual caregivers increased by 44 percent, from 2,258 in 2015 to 3,258 in 2016. Caregivers now serve approximately 31 percent of Maine’s patients.

Qualified patients can also obtain their cannabis from the eight dispensaries that have existed throughout the state since 2011. While the number of dispensaries remained constant between 2015 and 2016, the number of dispensary employees grew from 124 to 196 during that time.

Maine is one of the first of 29 states to legalize medical marijuana, after voters approved a medical cannabis measure in 1999. Under the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act, qualified patients are legally allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to six mature cannabis plants. The law approves 17 conditions for medical marijuana, including Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, hepatitis C, HIV or AIDS, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, nail-patella syndrome, nausea, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

U.S. Marijuana Laws

While its medical marijuana program soars, Maine is also currently preparing to roll out its recreational marijuana program. Voters barely passed Question 1 last November, and after an abandoned recount effort, Gov. Paul LePage signed the measure into law.

Maine will soon become the first state on the East Coast to have an operational recreational market, and businesses are expecting a huge customer base, both from residents and visitors from neighboring states. The governor has suggested that the state do away with its medical marijuana program once its recreational market is up and running. Maine is projected to bring in an estimated $2.8 million in tax revenue in 2017-2018 before growing to $10.7 million in subsequent years.

You can read the entire 2016 Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Program report here.

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