AUBURN — About two dozen people — some in their 20s and 30s, others old enough to be grandparents — filled a meeting room at the Auburn Public Library on Saturday to learn about medical marijuana and a marijuana dispensary that's coming to the city.
The meeting was hosted by Timothy Smale and his wife, Jennifer "Jenna" Smale, founders of the Remedy Compassion Center, a dispensary that is scheduled to open this spring at the Auburn Plaza on Center Street. Timothy Smale told the group that he and his wife want the dispensary to be a way for patients to get medical marijuana "with dignity, respect and compassion."
"No longer will people have to go to drug dealers on the street," he said.
During the first hour, Smale and his wife spoke about their experience with medical marijuana — he suffers from debilitating migraines and she administers doses of the drug when he is too sick to do it himself. They also talked about the dispensary, likening it to a pharmacy "that's a little more compassionate."
Afterward, Dustin Sulak, a Hallowell doctor with experience prescribing marijuana to his patients, spoke about the drug and how it effects the body. He also talked about the pros and cons of using it in various forms — for example, he said, smoking is fast and easy but exposes patients to carcinogens. Water pipes don't irritate the lungs as much as smoking but patients don't get the concentration of medication they sometimes need.
"Any different delivery system is going to change the medicinal effect to some extent," he said.
Some at the meeting were patients who already use medical marijuana. They wanted to learn about the coming dispensary or about the drug itself. Others weren't taking marijuana, but wanted to know more about it.
Crystal Flynn works in the medical field and has a family member with cancer. She said she wanted to learn about marijuana both because it's a topic among patients and because she thought it might help her ill family member, who is now taking morphine and other narcotics.
After listening to some of the presentation Saturday, Flynn said she hoped the people of Auburn would accept the dispensary. Too often, she said, marijuana users carry the stigma of being "big, bad, druggie people."
"It's not that. It's not what it's about," she said. "You don't even have to like it or choose to use it, but at least support the people who do."