August 16, 2010

Maine's first dance with Mary Jane

Dispensaries here will be modeled after California's finest, but with tighter regulations to avoid excess and abuse.

By John Richardson
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Emily Scarbrough smokes a joint at the Berkeley Patients Group clinic in Berkeley, Calif.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Grey, a clerk who asked that her last name not be used, helps patient Sara Romano select some marijuana at the Berkeley Patients Group clinic in Berkeley, Calif.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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CLICK HERE to read more stories, see more photos and learn more about Maine’s medical marijuana law.

"I smoke for anxiety," Clark said. "A lot of people here love the kushes. But, for me, they send me straight to nap time and I get nothing done."

He usually recommends All Star Jack Frost for anxiety. "It gives you a heady, euphoric high and a sense of well-being. And you're not all cloudy headed like you're smoking a granddaddy or something."

His pick for insomnia is Purple Afgoo. "That will give you some quality time with your couch."

Relieving pain or muscle spasms could require a stronger blend, Clark said. "If you cross a purple with a train wreck, you're likely to get something very heavy."

For Sara Romano, Space Queen is the best medicine for managing anxiety, stress and depression.

"I've gone the (traditional) medical route with these things, and I've tried different pills. They may help on one level but they do bad things to your body," Romano said.

She quit the pills and now sticks to weed, along with therapy, she said. "The depression is under control. Anxiety is non-existent."

Having a safe, reliable - and legal - place to get her medicine has also been good for her health, she said.


Maine's dispensaries will be modeled after California's biggest operations, but they clearly will be smaller.

Operators say they expect to start with a handful of employees at each site and that they expect to serve dozens of people a day instead of hundreds. Most project sales of $1 million to $2 million in the first full year of operation.

Along with a smaller population, Maine has far tighter limits than California on who can buy medical marijuana. Anxiety and insomnia, for example, are not among the short list of conditions, such as AIDS and cancer, that qualify a patient to legally use the drug in Maine. A state commission can add new qualifying conditions over time, but access in Maine is expected to expand much more slowly than it has in California.

California's access rules are so open now that dispensary employees know they are selling some pot to perfectly healthy recreational users.

But, just as at a pharmacy counter, it's impossible to tell just from looking who is really sick and who is not, said Clark. If a patient has a doctor's recommendation, that's good enough for him, he said.

Like Berkeley Patients Group and Harborside Health Center in Oakland, Calif., Maine's dispensaries will blend into their neighborhoods and have plenty of security, operators said.

At the same time, the operators also say they plan to tailor the new dispensaries to fit Maine's rules and its more conservative culture.

"We are looking to be as good as Berkeley Patients Group and Harborside or better, and that's the cream of the crop in California," said Tim Smale, who is working to open a dispensary called Remedy Compassion Center in the Auburn area.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:


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Additional Photos

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One-eighth ounce bags of marijuana that sell for $10 are stacked at Berkeley Patients Group clinic in Berkeley, Calif. Unlike California, Maine’s dispensaries will have a very short list of who can get the marijuana.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer


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