Friday, June 11, 2010

Eliot voters to consider moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries

ELIOT, Maine — Voters at Saturday's annual Town Meeting will decide
whether to impose a six-month moratorium on siting a medical marijuana
dispensary in town.

Selectmen proposed the moratorium at their May 27 meeting after the
measure was discussed in executive session, said Chairwoman Elizabeth
O'Donoghue. "The only thing that happened at the meeting was that we
decided to put it on a warrant article," she said, adding there has been
no public discussion. "We had word from the planning assistant that
somebody was trying to rent property to a group that was planning to
grow medical (marijuana), and that started the whole thing."

The board proposed a moratorium to give the town time to write an
ordinance to provide itself protection the state law may not have,
O'Donoghue said. The language of the moratorium states "a medical
marijuana dispensary presents the potential for new and unknown impacts,
including public safety concerns and concerns about compatibility with
surrounding uses." The moratorium would give the town six months to
study the issue and develop regulations governing their location and
operation, if needed, she said.

The state began accepting applications this month from nonprofit
corporations to become dispensaries under Maine's Medical Use of
Marijuana Act. The state will allow eight dispensaries, one in each of
its eight Public Health Districts including York County, according to
the Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS expects to approve the
location of a dispensary in York County by July 9.

The act passed last November allows patients with "debilitating medical
conditions" diagnosed by a physician licensed in Maine to receive
written certification allowing them to "acquire, possess, cultivate,
manufacture, use, deliver, transfer or transport marijuana and/or
paraphernalia without fear of prosecution."

Rep. Sarah Lewin, R-Eliot, said allowing medical use of marijuana would
bring other serious drug use issues.

"It was written with nowhere near the limitations that are needed to
protect the citizens where this stuff is grown and sold," she said. "The
good and kind and compassionate people of Maine heard how much people
are suffering from cancer and other issues, and how much relief they
would get from smoking marijuana and no one ever explained how serious
the use of marijuana is in many, many cases."

Lewin said marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to more serious drug
use and would add to existing drug problems in terms of costs of law
enforcement and treatment.

"It costs the state nearly $900 million a year in substance abuse
funding," she said, adding there are other costs in public safety. "It's
still against federal law to have this stuff."

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