Maine Marijuana Rules Will Take Time To Implement
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Maine Marijuana Rules Will Take Time To Implement
Posted by CN Staff on December 13, 2009 at 05:21:14 PT
By Adam D. Krauss
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat
Maine -- A task force has until the end of the month to recommend how Maine should implement its new medical marijuana law, which calls for a patient registry and dispensaries. Maine Gov. John Baldacci convened the 14-member group to "implement the will of the people" after nearly 60 percent of voters backed Question 5 in November. He said the group will ensure there are "appropriate safeguards in place to protect the public health and safety."
As soon as the votes were counted, state officials started hearing from people "interested in getting or growing marijuana," said Lucky Hollander, director of legislative relations at the Department of Health and Human Services.The group's recommendations are due by Dec. 31, and then the Legislature will begin its review. Final rules are expected to be in place in the spring.Baldacci's executive order forming the task force directs members to consider what's taken place in 13 other states that allow medical marijuana, including the four  Rhode Island, New Mexico, Colorado and California  that are dispensary states. By supporting the change, voters backed a citizen initiative that resuscitated a bill state lawmakers had rejected. The new law permits people with "debilitating medical conditions," as diagnosed by a physician licensed in Maine, to use medical marijuana if they get written certification from the physician vouching for the drug's therapeutic benefits.The law also changes the description of the medical conditions that warrant medical use of marijuana, including cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, hepatitis C, Chron's disease and conditions that produce "intractable pain.""With this new law, there are currently tens of thousands of those qualified patients in the state of Maine," said Jonathan Leavitt, Question 5's official proponent and coordinator with Maine Citizens for Patients Rights. Patients, upon registering with the state, would get an identification card qualifying them to possess no more than 2 1⁄2 ounces of marijuana. Residents can receive the drug from a caregiver who they are linked to in the registration process, or if needed, possess up to six plants to obtain the drug themselves.There will be nonprofit dispensaries, which will be able to "acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, use, deliver, transfer or transport" the drug without fear of prosecution. There is no limit to the number of patients a dispensary can serve. Allen St. Pierre, a native Mainer and executive director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said dispensary operators, possibly including those already doing business in other states, likely will look to locate to locales where "the local mores and values" support the law and already attract retail businesses.Josh Stanley, owner of the Denver-based Peace in Medicine Center, a medicinal cannabis dispensary that also offers yoga and nutrition classes, said he's reviewing Maine's law and gauging public opinion to see if the state could serve as a good satellite location for his company. "We're in the middle of looking at the legislative rulings in that state," he said. "We want to work closely with legislators to see what they want to see."St. Pierre said local governing bodies also likely will be more receptive than in the past since "today, across the country, baby boomers are in control," and "they have a much different attitude about marijuana than the prior generation." Ethan Nadelmann of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance has said dispensaries won't populate Maine like they do Los Angeles because of stricter provisions here. In Maine, unlike California, all dispensaries will need state licenses.Until the new rules are finalized, however, it's unclear what form the dispensaries will take or where they'll end up. The law, however, allows communities to limit the number of dispensaries operating locally. Maine's law also directs DHHS to establish application and renewal fees that will cover administering the law. Leavitt said "revenue from this new program should be paying for Maine's expansion of its agricultural base." At Tuesday's task force meeting, the confidentiality of those who participate was at issue. The panel opposes making the names public on the Internet or elsewhere, but members agreed the names would be made available to police in a "silent registry" if needed as part of an investigation.Ten years ago, voters approved a medical marijuana program that let them possess the drug, but the measure didn't address how the public could legally access it. Under the new law, "eligible patients must have documents and part of it includes information that a physician has reviewed the use of medical marijuana and that the physician feels that it might or may provide therapeutic value," said Bill Savage, senior assistant attorney general.Still, it's not expected the state's doctors will universally adopt the option. "I think that doctors, just like the population at large, are going to have widely divergent views about this," said Andy MacLean, the deputy executive vice president at the Maine Medical Association. The association hasn't taken a position on the law but is willing to aid in its implementation and ensure doctors are aware of certain concerns, including potential liability issues, MacLean said. "We are talking about an unregulated substance that may have impurities in it," he said. The law doesn't require doctors to recommend medial marijuana use, MacLean said. Sanford physician Bill Chernin agreed that opinion among doctors varies but thinks "most of us are fairly open-minded," so long as use of medical marijuana proves beneficial to the patient and the drug doesn't make its way "to another segment of the population."He said he's had patients who say they smoke marijuana at night to help them sleep or to perk their appetite or decrease anxiety. "For some of them it does do the trick and maybe what I have to offer is no better and may be more dangerous," he said. "I think we all recommend marijuana use in excess can have its downfalls as well."The law before the task force also says someone visiting Maine can use medical marijuana if they have a registration card or its equivalent from another state. But Savage said other states' laws will apply should a user from Maine be in another state. The Associated Press contributed to this report. Source: Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, NH)Author: Adam D. KraussPublished: Sunday, December 13, 2009Published: Wednesday, April 1, 2009Copyright: 2009 Geo. J. Foster Co.Website: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on December 15, 2009 at 19:23:19 PT
Calif. Experts Help Shape Maine MMJ Policy
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