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Maine Lawmaker Pushes Governor To Fire State’s Top Marijuana Regulator



A Republican member of Maine’s House of Representatives is attempting to oust the state’s top marijuana regulator, claiming that Office of Cannabis Policy (OCP) Director John Hudak is “unfairly and unjustly executing state law.”

OCP under Hudak’s direction, according to Rep. David Boyer (R), has inconsistently applied regulations, set steep licensing costs and penalties for licensed businesses and at times retaliated against operators who tried to raise concerns.

Hudak—a former Brookings Institution fellow who focused on marijuana at the think tank—also has conflicts of interest, Boyer claimed, that should disqualify him from some matters.

The lawmaker is currently circulating an online petition that urges Gov. Janet Mills (D) to “promptly fire Director Hudak and appoint someone who will advocate for Maine’s small businesses and not against them.”

“I am causing some ‘good trouble,'” Boyer said on social media over the weekend.

More than 600 people had already signed the petition as of Monday afternoon, Boyer said, with some of the signatories leaving comments about their own negative experiences with OCP.

Neither Hudak, an OCP media representative nor the governor’s office responded to Marijuana Moment’s requests for comment.

“OCP has gone completely rogue,” Boyer posted to Facebook. “Making up the law as they go, preying on caregivers and businesses that don’t know the law and/or [are] too intimidated to push back.”

“He is not for Maine!” Boyer said of Hudak. “Enough is enough.”

Boyer, who before entering public office ran the successful ballot campaign that crated the state’s cannabis legalization law as a staffer for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), initially expected he could “work collaboratively” with OCP on regulation after Hudak took the director role in December 2022.

But during an early meeting, Boyer told Marijuana Moment in an interview, Hudak’s approach rubbed him the wrong way.

“One of the things he talked about in that meeting was getting Maine ready for federal legalization,” Boyer said. “He’s clarified since. He’s talked about how Maine is going to be an import state for cannabis.”

To Boyer, positioning Maine as a future importer of marijuana, rather than a producer, undercuts the role Hudak is supposed to be playing as the state’s top cannabis regulator.

“For him to say that we’re going to buy our weed from somebody else is unbecoming for his position,” the lawmaker said.

Boyer also alleges that Hudak has a conflict of interest as the self-described co-founder of a consulting group, Freedman and Koski, that the state hired to help craft rules around legal marijuana.

“At a local listening tour a couple months ago, an activist asked him about it, and he said he was just a consultant,” Boyer said. But Hudak’s own LinkedIn page lists him as a co-founder.

Lewis Koski, of Freedman and Koski, is also the chief strategy officer for the cannabis seed-to-sale software firm Metrc. Metrc originally lost a bid for Maine’s track-and-trace system to competitor BioTrack, Boyer said, but Metrc—the runner-up—ultimately became the state’s provider.

The change happened following a December 2019 announcement by OCP that regulators and BioTrack had mutually agreed to terminate the relationship due to “BioTrack’s inability to deliver on the contract.” Hudak wasn’t appointed until nearly two years later.

Given Hudak’s connections with Koski, Hudak should have recused himself, Boyer said. Instead, according to the lawmaker, he helped negotiate the contract.

“He’s negotiating against his former co-founder across the table,” Boyer said, “so how can we be sure Mainers got the best deal?”

“I think he should have recused himself,” the lawmaker added, “because that deal didn’t come out very good for us.”

Boyer also claims OCP investigators have inconsistently applied rules to licensed businesses, sometimes in ways that appear to retaliate against operators who raise issues about the office’s approach.

He said an edibles business, for example, was told that its universal warning label on gummies was illegible even though other businesses’ similar products were approved.

As Boyer and other lawmakers were working on a legislative fix clarifying that it’s not practical to put labels directly on gummies (along with products like popcorn and chips), OCP said it was happy to compromise, Boyer said. But the next day, the office sent a notice to a gummies manufacturer saying his products were out of compliance.

Another business was flagged for a product label that included a depiction of human hands. Boyer said that was an error, however, because the rule applies only to adult-use products, and the business in question produced medical marijuana products.

Asked whether he’s heard feedback about the petition from Hudak, OCP or the governor’s office, Boyer said there’s been no response yet.

“I haven’t heard from the governor,” he said, but “I imagine she knows what her commissioners are doing, and her commissioners are taking direction to directors, like Hudak.”

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Meanwhile in Maine, Mills and GOP legislative leaders are opposing a drug decriminalization bill that was introduced for the session, claiming it would worsen the state’s ongoing overdose crisis.

Lawmakers last month considered a narrower bill that would legalize psilocybin, allowing adults to access the psychedelic at licensed facilities while broadly ending the criminalization of personal use and possession.

Changes proposed last month by Maine’s House speaker would attempt to aid equity businesses and remove license restrictions for applicants with past drug charges.

A Senate committee separately rejected a bill last month that would have fully removed marijuana from the state’s criminal code, including a repeal of mandatory minimum sentences for certain activities involving unlawful amounts of cannabis. It also would have required automatic expungements of prior marijuana convictions.

At the same time, Maine’s legal cannabis market has seen record-breaking sales in recent months, and the governor signed into law a bill last year to provide tax relief for the state marijuana industry.

An earlier version of this story mischaracterized how Metrc became Maine’s seed-to-sale software provider. The state’s original contractor, BioTrack, was unable to fulfill the terms of the contract in 2019, so the state instead went with runner-up Metrc.

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Photo by Get Budding/Unsplash

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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