|Graphic: Reality Catcher|
|The State of Maine will be selling marijuana by spring.|
A 14-member task force assigned by Gov. John E. Baldacci is trying to iron out the kinks in Maine’s new medical marijuana law so it can be implemented by its deadline at the beginning of April, 2010.
The committee, made up of state officials, police, medical professionals and others, meets today to address potential problems in the law voters approved in November.
The new law allows for state-run medical marijuana dispensaries, and also expands the conditions for which medical marijuana can be legally used in Maine.
Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since the Maine Medical Marijuana Act of 1998. This year’s voter initiative was designed to solve the conundrum of where those patients, legal for 11 years now, are supposed to buy their medicine.
Two of the task force members, Attorney General Janet Mills and Public Safety Commissioner Anne Jordan, have said the law must be clarified in several areas. One of the challenges facing the committee, for example, is defining exactly what is meant by “medical grade marijuana.”
Although the rules are supposed to be in effect in less than 120 days, Atty. Gen. Mills said “this time period is unrealistic.” Mills said her biggest concern is to avoid letting the state dispensary law result in extensive litigation, as has happened in some other medical marijuana states.
While 13 states allow the medical use of marijuana, only Rhode Island and New Mexico have dispensary laws comparable to Maine’s, in which the state is in charge of marijuana distribution centers. New Mexico recently upped the number of state-run dispensaries there to four, after the one licensed dispensary there ran out of marijuana and some patients were left to fend for themselves on the black market.
|Photo: Kevin Bennett, Bangor Daily News|
|Jonathan Leavitt, MMPI: Patients are ready for state-run dispensaries|
Privately run patient collectives, as opposed to state-operated dispensaries, are becoming increasingly prominent in California and Colorado. Their exact legal status is in the process of being defined in the courts, with some localities banning them outright, and others struggling with how to regulate them.
Jonathan Leavitt of the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative said patients are ready to utilize the state-run dispensaries. “Based on the response we’ve gotten over the past couple weeks, there are a lot of people in the state that plan on utilizing this medicine and using it effectively to deal with the conditions they are living with,” Leavitt said.
The Maine marijuana task force is scheduled to meet again next week. The group is expected to make its recommendations to Gov. Baldacci by Dec. 31.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA): Becoming a Medical Marijuana Patient in Maine