Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2010 Maine Medical Marijuana Conference Report


- Contributed by John Dvorak http://www.hempology.org/

In November 2009, Maine voters approved an initiative to create a regulated system of medical marijuana distribution.  Not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries are being licensed and regulated by Maine's Department of Health and Human Services.  To help pave the way for the implementation of the new law, the first Maine Medical Marijuana Conference was held in June at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. 
Maine is taking a logical and open minded approach to this issue although people are understandably confused about all of the new rules and regulations.  The conference featured a variety of knowledgeable speakers who did their best to allay concerns and describe how the new program would work.
During the conference's opening remarks, Maine Representative Anne Haskell, a long time proponent of medical marijuana re-read the testimony that she gave during the 1990's that detailed how her daughter used marijuana to increase her appetite to help withstand the effects of chemotherapy during cancer treatment.   Haskell is actively involved with ensuring that Maine's new law is appropriately implemented.
Keynote speaker and MS sufferer Montel Williams began his talk in tears because his feet were causing him so much pain.
  From the audience, Mark Dion, Sheriff of Cumberland County, told Montel that it was OK to self-medicate.  As Montel took a quick puff, the audience rose in unison to applaud the bravery of both Williams and Sheriff Dion.  It was recently reported that when Dion's term of Sheriff ends, he will become a non-paid board member of the Northeast Patients Group which will be one of Maine's licensed distributors of medicinal cannabis.   It was very refreshing, if not a little discombobulating, to see a politician and law enforcement officer forthrightly working to implement the new law as opposed to the more common establishment knee-jerk reaction of just saying no to the fact that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine.
Throughout the day, a range of topics were covered including the therapeutic uses of cannabis, operating a dispensary, the role of being a caregiver and changes in law enforcement.  In a panel for health care workers, Dr.  Dustin Sulak noted that many patients use cannabis to reduce their intake of other powerful pharmaceuticals that have deleterious side effects. 

Dr. Sulak is part of a new vanguard of physician visionaries that not only recognize the numerous beneficial aspects of cannabis but also actively research its capabilities and advocate for its re-acceptance into the medical pharmacopoeia.
Debbie Goldsberry, Director of California's Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), was there to share her enthusiasm and experience with the fledgling dispensaries sprouting in Maine.   BPG is providing advisory services to the Northeast Patients Group, which should help it avoid some of the pitfalls encountered in California.

Overall, the conference was a tremendous step towards showing how this multifaceted medicine can be provided in a controlled manner.   Maine's regulatory framework can be built upon as we move towards a more compassionate society coinciding, not incidentally, with the ending of cannabis prohibition.