It’s often hard to know exactly what government bureaucrats want from medical marijuana dispensaries. Despite the fact that voters in 16 states (and the District of Columbia) have decided for themselves to allow the medicinal use of cannabis, it seems that stuffed-shirt anti-pot types always find objections to the existence of places where patients can actually, you know, get marijuana.
When the shops are quick-and-easy, in-and-out types of places where one just goes in, makes the donation or payment, and gets the medicine, they’re criticized as “drug dealers, not health establishments.” And when the dispensaries attempt — as is now the case in Maine — to offer additional services to their seriously ill patients, they’re told that isn’t OK, either.
A dispensary scheduled to open next month in Portland, Maine, is designed as a “California style” wellness center, promoting a free coffee and tea bar, acupuncture clinics, support groups, counseling and a “welcoming vapor lounge,” reports Tom Bell at the Portland Morning Sentinel.
“Patients are always welcome to relax and socialize near our fireplace, or enjoy a free cup of tea with a friend in our cafe space,” says the new website of the dispensary in question, Wellness Connection of Maine.
Sounds like a great, relaxing, therapeutic place. Yeah, you’d think that offering additional services to patients might be seen as a positive, but no such luck.
But the manager of Maine’s medical marijuana program — for which voters have now specifically authorized state-licensed dispensaries — says a shop with such amenities would violate state regulations.
Creating a social setting which also allows the distribution of marijuana is supposedly one reason “California has run into problems” with the federal government, claims John Thiele of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services.
“We don’t want that to occur here,” Thiele said. “You don’t encourage people to hang out in the local pharmacy.”
Of course what Thiele is missing is that the medical marijuana paradigm fits better into the naturopathic/herbal end of the scale when it comes to medicinal treatments, not the sterile, Big Pharma-controlled scenario where one simply walks into an impersonal store, buys the medicine and leaves (with corporate-sponsored, often ineffective, sometimes downright poisonous “medicine” in hand).
In any event, Wellness Connection of Maine, formerly known as Northeast Patients Group, is leasing a space of about 6,000 square feet at 685 Congress Street, behind the Local 188 restaurant, where it plans to open a dispensary next month. City officials expect to award an occupancy permit before the first of January.
Wellness Connection has already opened dispensaries in Thomaston and Hallowell, Maine, and plans to open one soon in Brewer. The Portland shop will be the first medicinal cannabis dispensary in Cumberland County.
None of the five existing dispensaries in Maine — including the ones operated by Wellness Connection — currently offer vapor lounges or the kinds of social amenities being promoted for the shop in Portland, Thiele said.
While Maine’s rules allow qualified patients to consume cannabis on-site at dispensaries if it is infused into food, people aren’t allowed to smoke marijuana or inhale its vapors, Thiele claimed.
Maine doesn’t plan to take any action before Wellness Connection opens its shop in Portland, according to Thiele. The state has given the nonprofit group — with connections to Berkeley Patients Group in California — licenses for exclusive rights to operate dispensaries in four of eight districts in the state.
Mainers must have certain qualifying illnesses and doctors’ authorizations to joint the state’s medical marijuana program.