With all the noise about Question 1 on the Maine state ballot earlier this week, I forgot to mention that voters also passed a law making Maine the fifth state to allow retail medical pot dispensaries.
The vote when 59 percent to 41 percent.
Supporters claim the Maine law will not turn the state into the “Wild West” as they say it has in Los Angles where there are an estimated 800 dispensaries, not all of which are selling their product to the ill as the California law is intended. Maine law enforcement officials, of course, say there was not enough in the way of oversight and controls in the referendum.
Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Director Roy McKinney told the Associated Press, in a story published yesterday in the Bangor Daily News, that the potential exists for a dispensary to become “nothing more than a storefront for the criminal activity of drug dealing, which is the experience in California.”
“If there isn’t sufficient oversight, inspection, audits, etc., the potential is there for criminal activity to flourish,” he said.
Ethan Nadelmann of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance doubts Maine will have the same problems found in California. The Maine state government must license a dispensary, which California law does not require. And the Maine law narrowly defines the illnesses for which marijuana can be prescribed, while California doctors have broader latitude in recommending pot’s use.
“You aren’t going to see hundreds of dispensaries popping up all over Maine,” Nadelmann said. “You’re going to see a more regulated system.”
My experience is that law enforcement tends to overstate such pronouncements. My experience is that “advocates” also tend to overstate counter-pronouncements, so it is usually a tie.
Others said the dispensaries in Maine most likely pop up in the more liberal areas – such as Portland, Maine – than more conservative areas.
By the way, Colorado, New Mexico and Rhode Island are the other three states that allow for dispensaries.
Maine has allowed the use of medical marijuana since 1999, but did not provide for dispensaries. Patients suffering from the effects of cancer, AIDS and other really awful diseases could possess a couple of ounces of the drug and a half dozen plants.
I have written this before elsewhere, so it should not come as a surprise what my feelings are. If a family member was suffering from the ravages of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, whatever, I would do what I could to ease that suffering. And if pot was the answer, then pot is what they would get, whether there was a law to prevent it or not.
I was proud of Maine voters when they allowed the use of medical marijuana by seriously and terminally ill patients. Having dispensaries makes sense.