The fact that the city of Biddeford has joined other Maine communities such as Auburn, Ellsworth, Brewer and South Portland in placing a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries is not a negative judgment on the medicinal use of the drug.
Such ordinances merely serve as placeholders until legislators approve a system regulating such use, and they are nearly at that point.
Medicinal pot is here to stay. Its use has been validated in two referendums passed by a majority of Maine voters. In 1999, Maine voters approved medical marijuana for certain conditions, and allowed designated caregivers or patients to grow it themselves.

And this past November, a vote on expanding the number of conditions for which medical marijuana can be recommended and allowing nonprofit marijuana dispensaries garnered support of 59 percent of the electorate.

Nevertheless, as letter writers on the opposite page note, the state has been wrestling with regulations covering both dispensaries and the conditions under which medicinal pot can be produced. Last Friday, a legislative committee finalized a bill that included a maximum of eight nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries around the state, one for each public health zone.

The dispensaries would replace the informal system that has been in place since 1999, which has allowed patients – with doctors’ support – to grow and use limited amounts of marijuana.

Patients and caregivers would have to register with the Department of Health and Human Services and show state-issued identity cards authorizing them to use marijuana. Patients would tell the DHHS if they plan to grow as many as five plants (the most allowed under law), appoint a caregiver to grow marijuana for them, or buy marijuana from a specific dispensary.

The legislation would not set any age restrictions, but the committee supported a suggestion from the Maine Medical Association to require a doctor to consult a pediatrician and a psychiatrist before prescribing marijuana to anyone younger than 18.

Considering that pot is otherwise an illegal drug, such restrictions seem appropriate, even liberal (although California voters, always in the vanguard of national trends, will vote on legalizing recreational pot use in November).

That isn’t what Maine voters have done, however, and therefore strict regulations to be sure medicinal pot is just that – medicinal – should be laid out clearly in the law.

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