Medical marijuana is now rivaling blueberries as Maine’s most valuable cash crop

September 7th, 2013 by admin Leave a reply »

PORTLAND, Maine — Medical marijuana dispensaries were legalized here four years ago, but officials with Maine’s largest distributor say even as the drug becomes one of the state’s largest cash crops, the growth of the industry is hampered by the federal prohibition of pot.

And that’s even without the specter of federal prosecution, as U.S. Justice Department officials have followed a hands-off approach to enforcement in states where medical cannabis is legal and subject to strong local oversight.

The list of underreported byproducts of the clash between state and U.S. marijuana laws goes on and on, said Patricia Rosi, chief operating officer of Wellness Connection of Maine, far and away the state’s largest dispensary operator.

Most insurance plans, using federal guidelines, won’t cover medical marijuana use. Distributors cannot apply for federal nonprofit status. Science laboratories are reluctant to do research on the drug because most are funded by federal grants. Patients can be legally denied jobs.

That’s on top of the lingering stigma that Rosi said continues to follow and embarrass medical marijuana users.

It’s a very different business landscape than exists for the state’s signature wild blueberry industry, which by some estimates has already been surpassed in value by Maine’s legal marijuana crop.

Unlike the iconic blueberries, cannabis is being credited with — as one patient said — “giving people their lives back.”

Ruthann Carkhuff, 44, said she was diagnosed in 1996 with fibromyalgia and degenerative disc disease, conditions that sapped her of the ability to lift her limbs. Before starting to use medical marijuana about

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