Implementing the Medical Marijuana Initiative in Maine: An update
By Mike Reynolds

    In November, Maine voters passed by a convincing majority an expansion of the medical marijuana laws to include several more conditions and also introduce approved dispensaries to distribute cannabis.  Maine voters have initially approved medical marijuana in 1999, to help a variety of conditions, such as muscle spasms associated with MS, individuals with AIDS, individuals undergoing chemotherapy or radiation as a result of cancer.

The new law would expand the list of conditions to include people with ALS, or Lou Gerhig's Disease, as well as other conditions. The passage of the law by people's referendum made it possible for Governor Baldacci to appoint a Task Force of interested parties to advise the legislature about the implementation of this law and issue a report. After five meetings, where it was noted among the task force that "smoking was the only way to ingest marijuana" and the manufactuing process of a cannabis tincture required the use of an illegal form of alcohol.  Task force members did correct this information, and it is not exactally reassuring to know that the state employee "googled" for the tincture information, instead of consulting an homeopath within the state. The task force did not make any recommendations as to the number of dispensaries and did not endorse an amendment by Rep. Anne Haskell to consolidate the growing of cannabis by state sanctioned growers, with dispensaries being told to buy from the consolidated grow effort. The task force also placed no age limits on medical marijuana, but did require minors to have a parent's approval.  

On March 11,  a public hearing was held in Augusta, in which the room was full of the bill's supporters.  Most of the people were against the consolidated growing amendment, which died during the work session process held during the next week.

Unfortunately there were additional limits placed on the number of dispensaries which was not in any of the referendum language nor in the Task Force's recommendations. The number of dispensaries will be limited to eight, with the cost of the license going from 5,000 to 15,000 dollars for the first year. There is also an convoluted process to approve marijuana use for teens aged 13 to 17. This from a committee whose members openly worried about whenther opening dispensaries would "potentially have to worry about kidnappings because there were 600 kidnappings in Arizona" when the committee was discussing the history of legal dispensaries in New Mexico.  The law which was supposed to have dispensaries open by late spring given task force recommendations, may not see a dispensary open until the fall, due to the long process of rulemaking.  The amended law is going to be heard in the Maine House and Senate the week of April 1.

Mike Reynolds is the webmaster for Ability Maine and a freelance writer and legal Cannbis patient under the 1999 Maine law.