Medical marijuana business takes root

February 11th, 2011 by admin Leave a reply »

In addition, news surrounding the law made more people aware of marijuana as medicine, said Jonathan Leavitt, a leader of the state’s movement.

Last week, nearly 500 Maine residents had registered with the Department of Health and Human Services as medical marijuana patients. Until the first dispensaries start to open in late March, caregivers are the only legal source of marijuana for patients, unless they grow their own.

Like patients, caregivers have to register with the state — a rule that took effect on Jan. 1. The state last week had issued identification cards to 113 caregivers and had more applications to process.

Caregivers, who are limited to five patients other than themselves, have to pay a $300 fee per patient and can have up to six flowering plants for each of them.

The state has allowed caregivers to grow marijuana plants for qualified patients since 1999, but previously there were few regulations.

“It was pretty informal,” said Catherine Cobb, director of Licensing and Regulatory Services for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Cobb said the state has no way of knowing how many caregivers existed under the old law. Leavitt suspects there were no more than a couple dozen.

“The previous law was not known by very many people,” he said.

That changed when more than 60 percent of Maine voters approved dispensaries in 2009. The referendum campaign was driven by the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative, a group led by Leavitt.

After the details of the law were fleshed out, however, Leavitt shifted his support from dispensaries

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