Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Maine Medical Marijuana News
Revise of marijuana law up for vote in November
BY SUSAN M. COVER
Staff Writer Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
AUGUSTA -- The leader of a group hoping to expand the state's
medical-marijuana law says while he's prepared for a campaign on
Question 5, he doesn't anticipate much opposition.
Jonathan Leavitt, who leads Maine Citizens for Patients Rights, said a
U.S. Supreme Court ruling and a new administration in Washington have
made medical marijuana -- and dispensaries created to distribute it --
less controversial. "Our polling indicates this is not a controversial
issue anymore," he said.
Leavitt's group gathered the signatures necessary to put a ballot
question before voters on Nov. 3 that adds to the number of conditions
for which a physician can prescribe marijuana and allows the creation of
The proposal expands the action taken by Maine voters in 1999 to allow
the use of medical marijuana. Current law allows those with a
prescription to grow up to six plants, but Leavitt has said the reality
is most people buy it on the black market.
"Our job here is to make a law already on the books actually function
for patients," Leavitt said. "This is about making sure people have
To date, there's no organized opposition to Question 5, yet two top
state officials -- one in law enforcement and the other in health --
offered warnings against the ballot question.
Roy McKinney, head of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, said as a
public official he could not get involved in the campaign. But he
restated his belief, originally shared with state lawmakers, that
dispensaries would lead to misuse and could increase crimes such as
robberies and loitering. "We were looking at the public safety
ramifications of having legalized dispensaries of marijuana, regardless
of what the underlying issue is," he said.
The citizen initiative calls for the Department of Health and Human
Services to oversee the dispensaries, which would be required to pay a
$5,000 fee to the department, as well as comply with other regulations
regarding who may work in a dispensary.
Also, the bill states that dispensaries cannot be located within 500
feet of a public or private school and that "cultivation of marijuana
must take place in an enclosed, locked facility."
Dispensaries would be permitted to issue no more than 2 1/2 ounces of
marijuana to a qualifying patient, or his or her primary caregiver,
every 15 days.
Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control
and Prevention, said she opposes the ballot question for several
"There are no valid studies that show marijuana effectively treats the
many conditions most proponents purport," she said.
Mills said there are prescriptions available that are more effective and
don't come with side effects associated with smoking. She also has
concerns about making the drug more readily available -- fearing it will
end up in the hands of teenagers -- and that marijuana continues to be
illegal on the federal level. "It's illegal for a reason, because we
know there are effective, safe prescription medications that treat these
conditions," she said.
The bill defines the conditions for which a doctor can prescribe
marijuana. The list includes cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, Crohn's disease,
Alzheimer's disease and other conditions that produce pain that has not
responded to other treatments for more than six months.
Maine is one of 13 states to allow the use of medical marijuana. If
Question 5 passes, Maine would be the fifth state to permit
And while marijuana is illegal on the federal level, the U.S. Supreme
Court in May dismissed claims filed by two California counties that
argued the state's medical-marijuana law should be thrown out because it
conflicts with federal law.
Also in March, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he would not
continue the Bush-era practice of raiding medical-marijuana
dispensaries, according to the New York Times.
Unlike other, more high-profile ballot questions Maine voters will face
in November, only Leavitt's group has registered to raise and spend
money on Question 5, according to the Maine Commission on Governmental
Ethics and Election Practices.
So far this year, Maine Citizens for Patients Rights has raised $20,000.
The most recent campaign reports filed in July showed a $5,000
contribution from the Drug Policy Alliance of New York.
By contrast, there are 15 groups raising and spending money on Question
1, a proposed repeal of the state's gay-marriage law. And the two tax
issues, Question 2 and Question 4, each have seven groups involved in
the campaign, according to the commission.
Totals raised and spent on all the campaigns will be updated in
mid-October, the next filing deadline for political action committees.
"We are fully prepared for the campaign, and anticipate we'll have all
the resources necessary to win," Leavitt said.
Susan Cover -- 620-7015
http://morningsenti nel.mainetoday. com/news/ local/6878182. html