Pubdate: Mon, 14 Jun 2010
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, NH)

Copyright: 2010 Geo. J. Foster Co.
Author: Geoff Cunningham Jr.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


ELIOT, Maine -- Organizers behind a nonprofit entity  looking to grow 
and dispense medical marijuana out of a  locally based clinic cleared 
a substantial hurdle  Saturday when town meeting voters shot down a 
proposed  moratorium that would have allowed elected Eliot  officials 
more time to study the issue before  permitting such activities 
within the town.

Substantial debate over the topic preceded a simple  hand vote that 
saw the proposed moratorium failing to  pass muster, with some voters 
saying they didn't want  to support a temporary ban that seemed too 
open-ended,  with one resident arguing it would let selectmen study 
the issue "in perpetuity."

About 100 Town Meeting voters gathered at Marshwood  Middle School on 
Saturday to vote on 40-plus warrant  articles dealing with everything 
from proposed zoning  ordinance changes to budgetary items for the 
2010-2011  fiscal year.

Among the most heavily debated and discussed item on  the warrant was 
the proposed moratorium, which  represented a reaction to "inquiries" 
on the part of  those looking to establish a medical marijuana 
dispensary in Eliot.

The proposed moratorium article noted the Maine  Department of Health 
and Human Services has indicated  it plans to approve a medical 
marijuana dispensary in  York County by July 9 as part of a Maine 
Medical  Marijuana Act passed in November of 2009.

Maine DHHS data indicates a nonprofit dispensary  operator will be 
allowed to open up such facilities in  eight districts in Maine.

Eliot officials proposed a moratorium to allow for more  time for 
municipal leaders to establish regulations and  determine the 
potential impacts of having such a  facility in the community.

It stated: "The Town anticipates that such a study and  review and 
development of regulation will take at least  six months from the 
effective date of this Moratorium."

The approval of such a ban would have been a blow to  the "Green 
ReliefMD" organization, which is eyeing a  Route 236 property as a 
possible location for a  dispensary clinic it hopes the Maine DHHS 
will approve.

Green Relief Executive Director Ron Fousek said his  organization has 
been searching for a place to locate a  dispensary in the York County 
district with the  deadline for their DHHS application rapidly 
approaching  at the end of the month.

Fousek said towns like Sanford, Kittery, Biddeford,  North Berwick 
and York already have approved  moratoriums preventing them from 
being viable locations  in the upcoming application process.

GreenRelief is made up of a number of practitioners who  will be 
looking to grow medical marijuana in a secure  indoor facility and 
allow those with appropriate  prescriptions to come pick it up. 
Fousek said his  organization would hand out the medical marijuana 
to  those with proper prescription cards with the  recipients 
receiving a "trip ticket" that allows them  to legally take it from 
the facility to their homes.

Fousek addressed Eliot voters on Saturday, arguing the  medicinal 
benefits of the drug for those suffering with  chronic illness.

He balked at talked that the introduction of such a  facility would 
lead to increased crime, noting hundreds  of studies have proven it 
as an effective drug for the  treatment of everything from chronic 
illness to  addictions to more serious drugs.

"More is known about this plant than any other in the  world," Fousek said.

Eric Friberg -- another practitioner from GreenRelief  and Gulf War 
veteran who has used marijuana for medical  purposes -- noted the 
dispensary will not be a place  were drugs are dealt to anyone who 
wants marijuana.

"We are going to be heavily regulated ... give us a  chance," Friberg said.

Brian Enger -- another practitioner -- told the voters  they have 
little to worry about.

"We are not here to be pot dealers," Enger said.

Some Eliot residents expressed concerns that Maine laws  regulating 
dispensary operators allow for a 24-hour  window before they come in 
and check that they are  operating correctly and growing within the 
set  guidelines spelled out by the law.

"I'm very concerned about the public safety aspects,"  said State 
Rep. Sarah "Sally" Lewin of Eliot.

Eliot Police Chief Theodor Short didn't express any  overarching 
concerns about such a facility coming to  town, but did note his 
department is looking at how  other communities have handled such facilities.

He said it isn't for his department to decide whether a  moratorium was needed.

Others expressed support for such clinics.

Janice Cerabona -- a local voter -- was nearly in tears  when she 
recalled her daughter's pain as she struggled  with diabetes 
complications that took her life in 2005.

"Conventional medicine could not help her," Cerabona said.

Others opposed the proposed moratorium simply because  its wording 
didn't prescribe a set amount of time for  the town leaders to review 
the issue.

Budget Committee Chair John Reed said the proposed  moratorium 
appeared to amount to a "not in my backyard"  response to Maine's 
approval of such dispensaries.

He said the moratorium as proposed would allow the  study to take 
place of an "infinite" amount of time.

Residents eventually voted against the moratorium.

Fousek said the vote will let his organization at least  apply to 
open a dispensary in Eliot.

He said the group is looking to open their clinic in a  building on a 
property near the junction of routes 236  and 101.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom