Ten years ago, Maine voters legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. A wise method of procuring marijuana, however, was never created by the Legislature. So the state's handful of medical marijuana users either grow their own in small amounts or break the law to comply with the law.
Question 5 now comes before voters this year, asking to create a system of nonprofit dispensaries to allow legitimate patients legal access to marijuana. It seems only fair — lawmakers have had a solid decade to regulate drug dispensing related to the 1999 marijuana law, and simply haven't.
And it would be, if Question 5 were creating marijuana dispensaries that weren't standalone entities, but directly affiliated with doctors, hospitals or pharmacies. This proposed system is fraught with potential problems for law enforcement and regulation and should not be instituted.
On Nov. 3, please vote no on Question 5.
The dispensaries that would be created under this initiative are reminiscent of Maine's other existing network of clinics that provide authorized patients a legal treatment drug: methadone.
Methadone is prescribed for addiction to opiates, like heroin. It is provided to patients, in either wafer or liquid forms, at clinics across the state. They are standalone operations, in storefronts or converted buildings, and all are controversial for the drug they provide and the business they do.
When combined with other intoxicants, especially alcohol, methadone is lethal. (It has been an escalating cause of drug overdose deaths in Maine this decade.) The drug is a significant problem for regulators and law enforcement, because the doses are easily diverted and have street value as an abuse drug.
While few dispute the merits of it as drug treatment, many are uneasy with how it is provided.
There is a strong school of thought that methadone should only be available in a hospital setting, a physician's office, or from a licensed pharmacist — the system by which medications are delivered. We think this makes sense, so it makes sense for marijuana too, as opposed to what's proposed by Question 5.
Since voters made medicinal marijuana legal in 1999, it has become commonplace and accepted as a treatment for chronic disease. Marijuana's merits as medicine have earned scientific approval and a public, once skeptical, seems at ease with its use.
While it is difficult to reject an initiative that would continue to leave this law in limbo, without a sensible way for dispensing marijuana to deserving patients, to do so through a new network of independent dispensaries is not a good idea.