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.