In April 2023, Maine’s Office of Cannabis Policy (OCP) reported an exodus of about 1350 cannabis primary caregivers from the state’s medical marijuana market between 2021 to January 2023.
In the survey, the 1350 quitting companies were contacted to relate their experience and reason(s) they quit. Against long-standing belief, the survey unveiled the chief cause of the massive exodus: It unmasked the harsh struggle of an average cannabis caregiver to stay afloat in the highly competitive market.
Why the Exodus?
Before OCP’s recent survey, there was apprehension about the increasing exit of cannabis caregivers. In the blame game, most fingers pointed at the OCP’s stifling rules and regulations, which were assumed to make the industry less attractive to investors.
But the new research puts it differently. In the study, over half of the companies—58.1%—ticked “oversupply of product/lower prices” in their top five reasons for exiting the industry, and 48.7% said utility cost. Business costs, banking regulations/fees, and competition with the adult-use market followed in succession.
For the OCP, the survey has eventually unveiled the truth. The findings are a significant shift from the widespread assumption that linked increasing dropout to OCP’s high-handedness. According to the OCP statement on the survey result, the lingering blame on regulations “represents a distinctly minority view.”
If anything, the survey has revealed that most companies were overburdened by high licensing costs, rising operational costs, and oversupply, which has plunged prices. In part, the admission of big investors into the industry has occasioned an oversupply and a resultant price crash, creating stricter competition for small-scale investors struggling to pay rising energy bills and rent.
“This survey makes clear that the biggest issue facing the medical program is oversupply,” John Hudak, director of the Office of Cannabis Policy.
Now that regulators and the cannabis community know that the market suffers more from poor medical program regulation than OPC’s caregivers’ licensing rules, who’s to blame? The chunk of the blame automatically moves to the state legislators for refusal to set or upgrade the rules and establish inventory tracking programs to compel participants to buy from only regulated suppliers.
Who Are Caregivers?
Medical marijuana primary caregivers, or simply caregivers, are certified personnel who assist a qualifying patient with medical cannabis use. They are trained to help registered medical marijuana patients buy, transport, and administer marijuana products for private purposes.
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A caregiver is trained to handle up to five patients diagnosed with any of the qualifying health issues for medical cannabis treatment.
Minors under 18 do not qualify for medical cannabis prescription—except their parents, guardian, or legal custodians are willing to act as their caregivers. Terminally ill persons and seniors who find it difficult to access or self-administer medical marijuana also need caregivers.
Becoming a Caregiver in Maine
OCP registers and issues the identification card to primary caregivers. The ID card confirms one’s enrollment into the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Program (MMMP). It authorizes the legal purchase of marijuana products from licensed stores for their qualifying patient.
- Be a resident of the state
- Be 21 years or older
- Have no standing drug-related convictions
Registration is possible online or through mail. However, online applications are more favored and receive a quicker response.
Applying can be as simple as:
- Creating an account on the licensing/permit portal
- Providing and uploading requested documents
- The applicant gets a confirmation email and a request to pay $31 for a background check.
- After scrutinizing and completing the applications, the agency will request payment for the license application.
- Upon fee payment, applicants will be sent hard copies of their ID cards through the mail.
Learn more in this detailed guide on completing Maine’s caregiver online application.
Finding a Medical Marijuana Caregiver in Maine
Maine’s OCP has a register of all certified medical marijuana caregivers. The database information is restricted from the public.
To find caregivers online, prospective medical cannabis patients may check through trade unions and forums designed to enlighten caregivers and patients more on the safe use of medical marijuana. The Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act does not recognize remote caregivers.