PI to weigh pot dispensary moratorium

Posted April 06, 2010, at 10:09 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:31 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — City leaders are joining other municipalities across the state in considering a temporary moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in the town.

The proposal for a 180-day moratorium was introduced during a meeting Monday evening. Two public hearings will be held before the matter is decided, on April 19 and May 3.

“We are doing the same thing that a lot of other towns and cities are doing,” City Manager Jim Bennett said Tuesday. “We don’t want someone to come in and set up shop and us have no regulations for it. We are waiting to see what the state comes up with.”

Maine voters first approved the use of medical marijuana in 1999. The law allows people suffering from certain medical conditions, such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, to use marijuana, to possess up to 2½ ounces of the drug and to grow up to six plants.

Nearly 60 percent of Maine voters in a November referendum approved a law expanding Maine’s medical marijuana law. The new law allows qualified individuals to set up medical marijuana dispensaries that would be licensed by the state.

The ballot initiative also expands the list of ailments for which doctors could recommend medical marijuana.

Since the law was passed, some people have expressed fear that medical marijuana clinics will pop up across the state, along with other concerns. A 14-member task force appointed by Gov. John Baldacci met to address the matter earlier this year.

The task force passed recommendations on to Baldacci, and state legislators are finishing up a bill to set up a dispensary and distribution system. The bill, which would allow up to eight dispensaries and set a process to establish fees for patients, caregivers and dispensaries, was awaiting a final Senate vote Tuesday.

The House voted 126-17 in favor of the bill Monday after a debate in which defenders stressed the importance of the drug as a palliative. Opponents questioned whether the state should expand access to a drug that is banned on the federal level.

Other cities and towns — including Brewer, Houlton, Biddeford, Auburn, Ellsworth and South Portland — have passed similar moratoriums.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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