California Experts Help Shape Maine Medical Marijuana Policy

Attorney General Seeks To Avoid ‘Wild West’ In Maine

December 15, 2009 – AUGUSTA, Maine — The governor’s panel tasked with determining how, when and where medical marijuana will be distributed in Maine heard from Californians at a mehearing Tuesday in Augusta to learn from their precedent.

In November, Gov. John Baldacci ordered the creation of the task force after voters approved a new law to allow licensed dispensaries at nonprofit groups that will provide medical marijuana to qualified patients.

The panel, made up of legislators, patient advocates and the attorney general, heard Tuesday from a woman who heads a medical marijuana program in Berkeley, Calif., where a law allowing for the distribution of marijuana to patients has been in effect for 10 years.

“This should not have a negative connotation. This is a medicine. This is essentially a pharmacy with a community center component in our model,” said Becky DeKeuster, of the Berkeley Patients Group.

The Maine panelists are tasked with figuring out how many medical marijuana patients there are in Maine and how many distribution clinics or dispensaries are needed to serve them. At least one member of the panel said he’s not sure if the state needs one, 10 or 50.

Berkeley’s marijuana clinic serves 200 to 250 people a day with only one dispensary in the city.

“I think there is a need. How big a need that is, I don’t know,” said Brunswick Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-District 10.

The 14-member task force will set rules that will take effect within 120 days, and members are taking every single detail into account.

“It’s clear that that’s our job here to make sure that we are addressing what the voters really voted on — which is to be sure that we are overseeing the development and then the operations of these dispensaries in a way that gets medicine to people but still protects public safety,” said Brenda Harvey, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

“This task force is not going to be able to accomplish the dotting of every I and the crossing of every T, but addressing the issues ahead of time is crucial so that you don’t end up with a wild-west situation,” DeKeuster said.

That “wild west” mentality is exactly what Maine Attorney General Janet Mills seeks to avoid. She asked the group from California to provide names and numbers of law enforcement officials so she can check for herself the impact this law has had.

Town Leaders OK Moratorium On Dispensaries

City Council members in Brewer voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.

During an emergency meeting, some council members said their concerns are not related to the medical marijuana dispensaries themselves since voters in the state supported broadening the laws, but Brewer police said they would like more time to address where the dispensaries would be located and how the marijuana would be cultivated, distributed and transported.

Council members said no one has approached the city about opening a medical marijuana dispensary, but they want to get ahead of the issue. Source.

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