Marijuana is treated differently than any other medication because it is different. It is not approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration, so it is not subject to the controls placed over narcotics and other drugs that are distributed by doctors, hospitals and pharmacies under the watchful eye of law enforcement.

With medical marijuana in Maine, the distributor could be an established dispensary or a licensed caregiver who grows it in his basement, which is difficult to distinguish from a criminal operation.

The state has had to develop a completely different regulatory system for medical marijuana, which was approved by the voters. The state has to be in a position to make sure that marijuana intended for medical treatment is sold only to those who need treatment and is not diverted to the black market.

It also has to give law enforcement a clear idea of who is legitimately using the drug and who is breaking state law by possessing it.

That requires some record-keeping that would not be necessary if the drug were distributed through regular channels.

Requiring medical marijuana users to register has drawn criticism from patients who say they are reluctant to sign up because they are afraid that the information will not be kept in confidence. The fact that marijuana trafficking is still a federal crime — even though the current attorney general says he will not prosecute medical marijuana — makes people feel even more vulnerable. State law prohibits the registration information from being shared with federal authorities, but the fact that the list exists is an understandable cause of concern.

But until marijuana is treated like other medicines and state and federal laws are reconciled, this kind of supervision is necessary. By rolling back these regulations, Maine would risk losing even more control of this heavily abused drug.