Pubdate: Wed, 28 Dec 2011
Source: Portland Press Herald (ME)
Copyright: 2011 MaineToday Media, Inc.


Social Amenities Planned for a New Medical Marijuana Clinic Encourage

On two occasions, Maine voters have authorized medical marijuana for
people with serious illnesses. This was not a vote to legalize
recreational marijuana use, but an attempt to treat the herb as much
like a medicine as possible.

Operators of the newest dispensary in Portland should keep that in
mind and not take advantage of Mainers' compassion. Unfortunately,
that's not what they are advertising.

The website of Wellness Connection of Maine advertises a place for
patients to relax near a fireplace and drink tea while eating food
laced with marijuana. It's a setting that sounds more like a cocktail
lounge than a dispensary, and it is not what voters were promised. A
social setting encourages people to take more marijuana than they
need, and creates a risk to the public if over-medicated users try to
get into their cars and drive home after a treatment.

It sounds like the "clinics" in California (which are ways to sneak
around marijuana's status as an illegal drug) have drawn the attention
of federal law enforcement agencies, which have begun to crack down on
the facilities.

"We don't want that to happen here," said John Thiele, who supervises
the dispensaries for the Maine Department of Health and Human
Services. "You don't encourage people to hang out in the local pharmacy."

And you don't encourage people to medicate themselves there, either.
What Wellness Connection is promoting is not just a dispensary to
distribute medicine, but a place to encourage its use.

The dispensary law was designed to fix something wrong with the
original medical marijuana law: Patients were eligible to use
marijuana, but they had no legal way of acquiring it unless they or a
caregiver had the patience and the horticultural skills to grow it.
Mainers wanted there to be a legal distribution system, not a legal
way for businesses to cash in by promoting over-use.

The Wellness Connection still has time to revise its plans before the
new dispensary opens. If they do not scale back their social amenities
before opening, the state should push back. The mandate is to treat
marijuana like a medicine and that ought to be enough.
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