Leveraging the ALMS System to Support the Medical Marijuana Act
On November 3, 2009, Maine voters approved Question 5 which enacted the citizen initiated bill to establish the Maine Medical Marijuana Act. This marked the beginning of a great deal of work to establish policy and legal requirements surrounding the legal distribution and use of marijuana for medical purposes. It also marked the beginning of an aggressive application development effort to manage all aspects of marijuana users, growers and distributors. By mid-March 2010, legislation was drafted that outlined the requirements of the act, with July 1, 2010 being the “Go Live” date.
In March of 2010, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) met with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services (DLRS) to identify system requirements. Requirements included the processing of applications and licensing of marijuana patients, caregivers, and dispensaries that would run cultivation operations and non-profit retail stores. Requirements quickly expanded to include the licensing of nursing home facilities that would handle and store marijuana for residents, licensing of workers in dispensaries and those who would transport large quantities of marijuana to retail sites. An interface would need to be established between the new application and the Department of Public Safety METRO application.
Rather than attempt to rapidly develop such an application, OIT leveraged an existing application, which, upon first consideration, might appear ill suited for the effort. Maine state government uses the Agency Licensing Management System (ALMS) to support 44 unrelated regulatory programs within the Department of Professional & Financial Regulation and 5 programs within the Department of Public Safety. Could this application that supports licensing of real estate brokers, insurance agents, funeral service providers and foresters, for example, be used to manage the registration of marijuana patients, growers and sellers?
The ALMS application, which was implemented over 10 years ago, is a system developed in a partnership between the state of Maine and Sauper Associates based in New Jersey. ALMS runs on an Oracle server and provides a comprehensive application for state staff and web-based, self-services applications for licensees and the general public. Its adaptability comes from compartmentalizing disparate licensing programs as well as it’s the ability to be configured for a variety of different purposes such as case management, inspections, on line services etc. A user from one program cannot access information from a different program, without specific permission granted by the data custodian.
An April 2010 demonstration of the ALMS application to DLRS staff prompted a collective decision to leverage this system. After this, Maine staff, in conjunction with Sauper Associates staff developed detailed business requirements. By early June of 2010, a test implementation was running, with the month being devoted to testing and training. Such a tight deployment schedule would never have been possible without leveraging the established ALMS system and the team of participants.
The Maine Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law by Governor Baldacci on May 5, 2010. The application was live on July 6, 2010. Today the ALMS system manages over 1,000 licensed Medical Marijuana patients, caregivers and dispensary workers.