Maine officials will accept applications starting this week fro residents who want to register as medical marijuana patients under the state’s new distribution system. But some who are already using marijuana under the current rules say they are in no hurry to put their names on the list.
Rules created after last November’s statewide referendum allow eight non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries to be set up in Maine, reports John Richardson at the Kennebec Journal
. Prospective dispensary owners have until June 25 to file applications and business plans under guidelines posted last week.
All individuals who want to use medical marijuana must register with the state by January 2011, under the new rules. Applications will be posted online as soon as Tuesday, May 11, ac cording to Catherine Cobb, director of licensing for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
“I’ve heard estimates of 2,000 to 3,000 (potential applicants), so we don’t know what to expect,” Cobb said.
Each applicant must submit a doctor’s recommendation to use the drug for symptoms of cancer, HIV, or one of several other health conditions. Those who qualify will get ID cards starting in July, entitling them to possess and use marijuana under Maine state law.
The idea behind the registration card is to help legal marijuana users stay out of trouble, according to Maine officials. “I do think the registry system and registration cards offer further protection for our citizens,” Cobb said.
Medical marijuana users and advocates have supported the idea of a registration card, as long as it is voluntary. But some oppose the requirement that all users must register, saying it is an invasion of privacy.
“People who take Oxycontin don’t have to be on a registry,” said Eric Friberg of South Portland, who is a medical marijuana patient and provider. “I feel more like a criminal now than I did before this law was passed, and that’s how all my patients feel.”
The law that Maine voters approved last fall was meant to expand safe access to the medicine and provide more protection for users, not to place new burdens on people, some of whom are terminally ill, said Friberg.
According to Friberg, a card may actually have helped him a couple of months ago when Scarborough police confiscated his marijuana after a traffic stop. “But, at the same time, I don’t want to be on any list and most of my patients don’t want to be on any list, either.”
The reluctance of patients and providers to be on a state registry is understandable, given the fact that possession of marijuana for any purpose is still a federal crime. While the Obama Administration has discouraged federal drug agents from going after patients and providers who are in compliance with state law, there is still concern about how the information about users could be used over time.
“We feel the registration requirement infringes on doctor-patient privacy,” said Shenna Bellows executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “Given that medical marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, it’s understandable that someone might not want to register in the state’s database.”
Bellows said the MCLU still hopes Maine will make the registration voluntary rather than mandatory. “It’s an unfortunate reversal of both a decade of practice and the will of the voters,” she said.
The state posted guidelines last week for the eight new marijuana dispensaries to open in January. The application fee is $15,000, but all but $1,000 will be returned if an application is rejected.
The guidelines include security standards and requirements for state reporting. Dispensaries must be at least 500 feet away from schools, among other requirements.
For more information about Maine rules and medical marijuana dispensary applications, click here