I know saying I’m in favor of the proposed moratorium on the recreational sale of marijuana in Maine isn’t going to win me any popularity contests in the Portland area. But I am.
It’s not that I am anti-marijuana or that I am against recreational use. I just prefer making sure the recreational market is designed in a way that serves Maine’s economic interests, which at the moment, are pretty desperate.
More importantly, though, I’m for making sure that there’s the legislative equivalent of a cement wall around the medical program. Having access to medical marijuana through the program has improved my quality of life exponentially. I want to make sure it is protected as the recreational market establishes, grows, and develops.
I am a blogger, and I spent a great deal of time over the summer and fall researching the Question 1 language. My most compelling hours, though, were spent talking to patients and caregivers who had concerns about the effects a poorly designed recreational market might have on the medical marijuana program.
They offered the state of Washington as an example, where the medical program is being incorporated into the recreational market — to the detriment of patients who need specific strains and products that may not be as profitable for recreational use retail outlets. The costs of maintaining caregiver status there have also increased, making the caregiver operational model extremely difficult to sustain financially.
So big deal, some think — we lose the medical program, we lose caregivers. As long as marijuana is for sale, who cares?
The answer: nobody. That's exactly the problem. Lose the medical program and you lose the people who do really care. Like all the caregivers who donated medications to the Meehan family to treat young Cyndimae’s Dravet Syndrome. It’s a severe seizure disorder that had been previously treated by pharmacological interventions that left Cyndimae limp in a wheelchair.
Mom, Sue Meehan, took a courageous step and introduced CBD oil into her daughter’s treatment and slowly over time, they found the strain and the dosage that met her needs. Cyndimae was back climbing jungle gyms until her tragic death.
Meehan had moved her family here from Connecticut to access the medical marijuana program. She’s not an affluent woman, and she has other children. Imagine her gratitude when the word got out in the caregiver community and donated medication started arriving at her door. Meehan told me that she didn’t remember ever paying for Cyndimae’s medicine.
I have yet to meet a caregiver who doesn’t donate some portion of their growth, and the veterans and cancer communities are at the top of their list of regular recipients. Over the holidays, a group of caregivers including Glenn Lewis of Manchester and G.W. Martin of Montville collect donations to disperse to low income patients.
I was just on the phone with GW the other day, and I think he said it was 12 pounds this year. That’s care.
There’s more to it than donations, too. There’s the individualized care the program offers.
A retail outlet salesperson isn’t going to notice if I’m walking a little stiff or if my mood seems to be lagging a bit over the last couple visits. My caregiver does, and he questions how things are going and offers suggestions for slight or temporary modifications.
Or in those most dire moments, he offers instant relief. That level of personalized care feels like having a second primary care professional; and my caregiver is sure to nag me when it’s time to give my doc a call. He knows it’s not my first impulse.
There’s life and death science to protect, as well. As a patient, I am a member of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine. MMCM is a trade organization that wears a variety of hats, and at a recent meeting, leadership reported that the program was moved under the Center for Disease Control part of Maine DHHS. Catherine Lewis of MMCM reported that the CDC staff was hoping to work collaboratively with program members to develop a database of information regarding which strains were being used for which conditions and to what level of success.
This data has the potential to save and change lives — just like mine — exponentially.
Patricia Callahan is a writer who lives in Augusta. Her blog, Mainely Thoughts, appears on Bangor Daily News online and was named the Maine Press Awards News Blog of the Year in 2016.