Behind the scenes: Maine’s medical cannabis program



Over the past six months, we have been attempting to replenish our supply of THC extract. With the flood of storefronts that have popped up all over the state, we naively thought that this was going to be as easy as a simple phone call. 

As our supply started to get low, we called upon the extractor we’ve used in the past, only to discover that they are no longer providing the same type of extraction services that Moby requires. It turns out that butane extraction is the new way to go, as it produces a cleaner, easier-to-smoke (and dissolve into a gummy) end product.

This is a process that removes many of what we consider to be beneficial compounds. In our experience, ethanol extraction (what the industry refers to as “RSO”) results in an end product that has smoother absorption, giving the benefit of a truly therapeutic delivery. 

Over the next few months, we were introduced to a string of extractors, each time waiting 4-6 weeks only to have the final product fail some aspect of our required tests for mold/mycotoxins, pesticides, heavy metals, and residual solvents. 

The Moby Solution

Finally, we connected with a lab that felt promising. The tour of their facility was impressive, leaving us feeling hopeful.  Facing yet another 4-week turnaround time, we felt confident that we’d soon have our stock replenished.  At the end of this time, the tested samples once again failed on multiple fronts.

They assured us that they could deliver on the next attempt, so we waited an additional 4 weeks and finally had an ethanol-extracted THC that passed with flying colors.  We applaud the people out there who are doing things right while finding it curious that it took so many attempts to find an appropriately clean extract in a market that is selling millions of dollars worth of product to the people of Maine.

The most disturbing part of this experience was that, after failing basic safety tests, most of the rejected batches were offered to us at a “deep discount”.  When declined, we were reminded by the extractors that the regulations allow the product to be sold as-is. 

The Medical Cannabis Program’s Moral

The likelihood that all of these were dispersed into medical storefronts throughout the state of Maine is highly probable.  With no safety regulations for those who hold a medical caregiver’s license, it is perfectly legal for these contaminated extracts to be sold to anyone who has been issued a medical card. 

Calling the program “medical” and requiring a card to be purchased from or issued by a licensed medical practitioner to access it presents an illusion of safety.  Unfortunately, this is far from reality. 

In an effort to not rock the boat, we’ve avoided speaking publicly about this topic because our opinions are strong and we are in the minority, but after what we just experienced, it would be remiss of us to continue to remain silent. 

We wonder if it is safe for a cancer patient to ingest “RSO” that has high levels of pesticides.  What about gummies colored with neurotoxic dyes and laced with heavy metals that an unsuspecting elderly person is taking for sleep? 

They may find nightly relief from their insomnia, but when they start presenting with dementia a year down the road will it be a normal age-related phenomenon, or will it be because of the daily exposure to heavy metals? 

It appears to be fairly common knowledge that heavy metals and healthy brain function do not go together, but perhaps this isn’t something that anyone cares to think about.  In the end, all we know is that we wouldn’t want anyone we love to be ingesting the toxins that are evidently an acceptable part of Maine’s medical cannabis industry.  

Your safety is our #1 priority

Over the years, when opportunities to speak privately with people in authority have presented themselves, concerns have been expressed over the state not requiring basic safety testing.

Continually, the answer has been that it would be “cost prohibitive” to require caregivers to test for contaminants and that doing so would be “detrimental to the local caregiver community”.  While this may be true, we are of the mind that the people of Maine, who are our friends, clients, and neighbors, should be better protected than this. 

The above answers do not take into account the harm that could come to those who trustingly obtain a medical card and then go off into what appears to be the wild, wild west to purchase their cannabis medicine. 

Our business model was conceived in part due to the lack of regulations, so we know full well how cost-prohibitive it can be to ensure that everything we dispense is clear of contaminants.  Lab tests for safety and dosing accuracy have always been and will remain our foremost priority. 

In the last year alone, we have spent over $6400 on testing.  We consider this a small price to pay if it ensures your health and safety. 

Rest assured that we will continue to serve you and those who find their way to us with unwavering integrity and will continually go the extra mile to keep you safe on all fronts.  There are caregivers out there producing safe cannabis medicine, so we hope the people you care about have found their way to those people. 

It may be though that they haven’t even thought to ask if their medicine is tested for safety.  Please feel free to share this with anyone you know who has a medical cannabis card so they can be informed consumers who ask for safety reports the next time they look to purchase their medicine. 

With care and gratitude,

Angel McLellan
Director of Clinical Services
Momen Abdullayof, RPH