ROCKLAND, Maine — A statewide medical marijuana caregivers association said it will hold a fundraiser at its annual trade show next month to help defray the legal costs for a member who unsuccessfully challenged the right of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to impose fees without legislative approval.
Paul McCarrier, the legislative liaison for the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, said that in addition to Justice Andrew Horton siding last week with DHHS on its authority to impose fees, the state judge also ordered John Stewart of Washington to pay the state agency’s costs to defend itself against his suit.
On Monday, McCarrier criticized the ruling that Horton issued last week in Knox County Superior Court. McCarrier said there was clearly a conflict in state laws.
The Maine Administrative Procedure Act was approved by the Legislature in 1995 and prohibited state agencies from imposing fees unilaterally if there are no fee ranges or caps in any subsequent law. It stipulates that the setting of fees would be a major substantive rule that requires hearings and a legislative vote.
Horton ruled last week that the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act, adopted by the Legislature, allows the fees to be set as routine technical rules, which does not require a more formal process that includes subsequent votes by the Legislature.
“The intent of the Legislature could not be clearer,” Horton ruled.
The marijuana law did not include ranges of fees or caps, Stewart and McCarrier said. DHHS has been charging caregivers $300 per patient up to their maximum of five patients.
The marijuana caregivers plan to hold a fundraiser at their annual trade show that runs from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. April 19 at the Spectacular Event Center at 395 Griffin Road in Bangor.
Stewart said Tuesday the requirement that he pay the state’s cost for legal expenses is retribution for challenging the state. He said he is not sure yet whether he will appeal because of the potential that the cost could be excessive.
The total cost of legal expenses incurred by the state has not been announced. An email request for that information was sent Monday afternoon to DHHS.
The Washington man pointed out that the Legislature was aware that DHHS was in error because it approved an amendment to medical marijuana bill in July 2013 to allow the department to set a range of $50 to $300 for fees to caregivers per patients.