Heed voters’ will on medical marijuana dispensaries

Posted April 26, 2010, at 7:13 p.m.

After reading the April 21 article “Bangor focuses on pot dispensary’s location” and several others about towns that have implemented moratoriums on medicinal marijuana dispensaries, I am very concerned that our state and local leaders are getting way off track in regard to the referendum that was passed overwhelmingly in November 2009 by the voters of Maine.

Bangor would be an ideal city to have a dispensary since the largest hospitals in eastern Maine are located there. Sick people from all over eastern Maine go to Bangor to see specialists to treat their illnesses. It would make it much easier for these patients to be able to go to their doctors and pick up this medication on the same day.

I was shocked by the quote from Bangor City Council Chairman Richard Stone. “I don’t want to end up where we did on methadone clinics,” he said, referring to the fact that Bangor now has three active methadone clinics while no other community in Penobscot County has any.

It is an insult to the sick and dying people of Maine to compare a medicinal marijuana dispensary to a methadone clinic. There is a big difference between people fighting long-term, chronic and terminal illnesses and those who knowingly and willfully used illegal substances. To imply that there are similarities in these distribution centers is degrading to those who are fighting for their lives against horrific illnesses.

My husband suffered with prostate cancer for 10½ years. Medical marijuana made a big difference, especially in the last two years of his life. It was his only relief from nausea, anxiety and pain.

I am equally concerned that the Bangor Daily News continues to refer to these dispensaries as “pot” dispensaries, when in fact they are medicinal marijuana dispensaries. It is far too easy for those who know little about the value of this important medication to refer to people who need this medicine as “potheads” if BDN continues to use this phrase.

For months, I have read the comments on the BDN website on this issue. There seem to be some Mainers who have lost all sense of their humanity and who are uneducated about this topic. Some of these posters insist on referring to the disabled and dying people in Maine who need this medication as “potheads.” Someone who has a terminal illness, who cannot eat, who cannot get full relief from their pain using several pharmaceutical prescriptions is not a “pothead.” They are a suffering human being.

Sure, there will be people who will abuse this law. There will be recreational users who will try to get access to this medication. But whether this law had been passed or not, recreational marijuana smokers in Maine would have continued to buy and smoke marijuana as they have done for decades.

Implementation of this law is not going to increase the number of recreational users, but it will increase the number of sick and dying Mainers who will smoke marijuana. The more requirements that our leaders attach to distribution of this medication, the more difficult it will be for these sick people to gain access to something that can relieve their suffering. They are and will be forced to buy this medication illegally.

I am disgusted at the elected officials in Maine who have done everything humanly possible to make access to this valuable medication nearly impossible for the sick and dying people of our state. What other medication requires people to have their names put on a list for law enforcement officers to see? What other medication re-quires the Department of Health and Human Services to be involved in the distribution?

Does it not matter to our state and local leaders that Maine voters spoke very loudly last November? Or do they think it is perfectly acceptable to dismiss the will of the people?

I cannot help but think about those who have suffered without relief during these months when our elected officials have stalled the implementation of this law. How many cancer patients have been unable to eat, sleep or have not been able to find relief from their pain, anxiety and depression? How many people with HIV, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, arthritis, fibromyalgia have been left to suffer from their afflictions while the leaders that we have trusted have done all that they can to override the voters of Maine?

I think every town official in Maine who has called for and implemented a moratorium should be forced to spend a day at CancerCare of Maine or sit with dying people on the oncology floor at Eastern Maine Medical Center or visit a hospice facility. Perhaps then they will regain some of their humanity and will want to do what-ever they can to help improve the quality of life for thousands of sick and dying Mainers who will benefit greatly from this medication.

The voters have spoken. It is time to put this law into action.

Wendy Newell Dyer lives in Jonesport and is a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe.

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