State to Maine legislators: Let armed agents join inspections of licensed pot …

February 19th, 2014 by admin Leave a reply »

11:33 PM

An official says DHHS knows that some providers are breaking the law, so its workers need protection. But there’s an issue with warrantless searches.

By Steve Mistler
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The state wants armed drug enforcement agents to accompany health inspectors when they visit the operations of licensed medical marijuana caregivers, a Department of Health and Human Services official told lawmakers Tuesday.

Kenneth Albert, director of the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services, said the agency knows that some of Maine’s approximately 600 caregivers are breaking the law by growing and selling marijuana beyond the limits of their licenses. He said unarmed DHHS staff might not be safe visiting such an operation.

“We know that there are caregivers that are not complying in any way, shape or form with the regulations, who are making a lot more money than they’re allowed to, who are caring for many more patients,” he said. “In those situations, I don’t want to put a DHHS employee in harm’s way. These are criminals.”

The revelation drew a sharp response from the Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, an industry trade group.

Paul McCarrier, a lobbyist for the group and a licensed caregiver, said Albert was effectively asking the Legislature to sanction warrantless search and seizure.

He said teaming up with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency to inspect suspicious grow operations without a warrant was a heavy-handed move that showed the state was viewing medical marijuana dispensaries and grow operations as criminal enterprises.

“The MDEA is

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