Written by David Carkhuff
A family vacation can become a stressful ordeal as parents worry that their children's medical marijuana will run the family afoul of federal law.
Meanwhile, federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug hampers research, stifling the kind of innovation that has provide miraculous results for patients.
These were the testimonials and arguments that underscored a push Tuesday by a local medical marijuana practice seeking to convince the Obama administration to reclassify cannabis and eliminate hurdles experienced by patients.
Dr. Dustin Sulak, osteopathic physician and medical marijuana practice founder at Integr8 Health in Falmouth, said, "Research into therapeutic applications of cannabis and its constituents has been impeded, and countless patients are suffering who might benefit from this effective and versatile medicine."
His message to the Obama administration and the message of his website, http://integr8health.com/call-to-action and its online petition: "remove cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act."
"The erroneous scheduling has impeded medical research, created conflict between state and federal law and wasted law enforcement resources," Sulak said.
He argued that Attorney General Eric Holder has the executive authority to reclassify marijuana without an act of Congress.
Families described their ordeals with the federal law.
"It's one of those things when you have a shake and a nod, I guess, from Homeland Security that they're not going to bother people who are traveling with their medication," said Kristi Solman, whose adult daughter takes medical marijuana for epilepsy. "And yet in the same token you're traveling with something that is listed as a Schedule 1 narcotic, so you are literally breaking the law when you cross state lines. So if we took a family trip to visit family in Arizona in the wintertime, we'd be breaking the law."
Kristi Solman and her daughter, Katie Solman, a patient at Integr8 Health, joined the press conference Tuesday to urge public support of the online petition pushing for reclassification of cannabis.
"I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 11 years old, " Katie Solman said, "and I've been on and off pharmaceutical medication for eight years, and starting in September I began taking medical cannabis, and it's just completely changed my life."
The stereotype of a pot-smoking youth with no motivation doesn't fit, she said.
"I'm working hard in school, I'm a pre-med student, it doesn't affect my life as a student at all," she said.
Katie Solman explained that she is prescribed a variety of cannabis with low THC — tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive cannabinoid of the cannabis plant. She said she takes it as a liquid tincture and in a lozenge form.
Kristi Solman said that last year her daughter had problems with seizures, and at one point she had withdrawal symptoms similar to coming off barbiturates.
"It was pretty intense, and the contrast we've seen this year is nothing short of remarkable," she said.
"Hopefully over time she will be able to back off those pharmaceutical medications," she added.
Christy Shake said her 10-year-old son, Calvin, was born missing a significant amount of the white matter in his brain, "and the neurologist said he may never walk and talk, but they never said that he might have seizures, and when he was about 2 years old, he had his first seizure, it was a grand mal seizure ... and that was the first of many, many trips to the emergency room."
He was diagnosed a short time later with epilepsy.
At her website, http://www.calvinsstory.com, Shake describes herself as an "impassioned epilepsy advocate."
Calvin has taken up to nine pharmaceuticals, sometimes as many as four at one time, in the past eight years, Shake said.
"He had at least a dozen seizures every month, that we knew of," she recalled.
Shake described myriad challenges with traditional pharmaceutical medicines, leading to years of turmoil and torment, as the family watched Calvin battle symptoms of the medicines.
Then, Shake said, she became aware of medical marijuana.
"A year ago, I started researching cannabis, and I heard all of the great stories coming out of Colorado, and unfortunately Maine didn't have the strain that we wanted to use, so I started looking into another type of oil that I could make myself. Calvin was his neurologist's first patient on medical cannabis," she said.
"Calvin has been taking a homemade cannabis oil high in THCA which is the acidic form of THC so it is not psychoactive," Shake explained.
The dose is not therapeutic for his seizures yet, she said, "but almost immediately he started sleeping through the night, he started to be calmer, he became more focused, his balance improved, all of these were good side effects of the new medication."
"We need to find a therapeutic level," she noted, saying the withdrawal from benzodiazepine inflicts behavioral side effects.
Shake needed a specific form of cannabis, one high in CBD, the abbreviation for cannabidiol, the cannabinoid second only to THC when it comes to average volume.
Most plants are grown for high THC levels, so she had to search for a high CBD plant in Maine, Shake said.
"Since then some plants have been brought in anonymously, and they're growing and they're starting to flower," she said, although she acknowledged that the hybrid's import violated the law.
"We really need to de-schedule this so it's easy for people to get. I should be able to mail order for it. If I don't live in a state where there is a high CBD strain, I should be able to get it for my son in Colorado, I should be able to take Calvin to his doctor's appointments in Massachusetts without fearing that I am breaking the law," Shake said.
Beyond legal repercussions, Shake said she fears a prolonged seizure will have devastating effects on her son.
"I'm afraid every morning that I'm going to wake up and he's not going to be alive because of a prolonged seizure," she said.
Martin A. Lee, representing Project CBD, a medical marijuana advocacy group based in California, said that in the past month the organization has been contacted by people from 155 different countries.
"I'm going to be a little bit undiplomatic and just say that it is absolutely shameful, it is a national embarrassment, that marijuana or cannabis is a Schedule 1 substance," he said Tuesday. "The idea that the federal government officially considers cannabis a substance that is dangerous and has no medical value is about as sensible as saying the moon is made of green cheese."
While giving credit for recent statements by President Obama about marijuana and its properties, Lee accused the Obama administration of "grandstanding" by vowing to change the legal status if Congress complies. He agreed that rescheduling cannabis is something that Attorney General Holder could do.
"Unfortunately this is part of a longstanding tradition going back many years since cannabis was made illegal in 1937 in the United States of playing politics with people's health and people's lives," Lee said.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 01:17
Written by Craig Lyons
The Portland Police Department is looking to create a new position that will exclusively handle quality of life issues in the city.
The proposed ordinance enforcement officer, which is included in the proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, will be tasked with addressing issues such as smoking in Portland's parks, littering, dogs at large, pet waste issues and other city ordinance violations, according to Chief Michael Sauschuck. The position, as it's proposed, will involve the department hiring a person at $31,000 with constable authority to handle ordinance violations only.
"I think this is an aspect of service that we are lacking in," Sauschuck said. "It definitely fills a need."
Sauschuck said the position will be a hybrid of sorts and handle tasks that would otherwise be left to park rangers, the animal control officer or anyone with constable authority. Unlike a park ranger, Sauschuck said the enforcement officer would not be limited to a specific area, or like the animal control officer, having to deal with more severe complaints.
Having someone dedicated to enforcing the city's ordinances will help deter violations and deal with problems as they arise, Sauschuck said.
"I think that will help us address a lot of our quality of life issues," he said.
The flexibility associated with the enforcement will allow the department to better address problems or complaints from the public about quality of life issues, the chief said.
Many of the quality of life issues often fall into a gap of officers' enforcement abilities in a city where more than 83,000 calls are answered each year, the chief said. He said the new position would focus solely on those quality of life issues that Portland residents want to see addressed, he said.
"I want to be responsive to our public," he said.
Coupled with the department's community policing efforts, the downtown cadet program, the neighborhood prosecutor and other initiatives, Sauschuck said the enforcement officer will have a big role.
"I think it will be an important part of the team," he said.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 01:17
Written by Timothy Gillis
The Shalom House art program is celebrating two decades of therapeutic classes, using drawing, painting, sculpture, and crafts to help their students cope with mental illness.
Kristin Mitchell has been taking classes here since 2009, indulging in a little bit of everything, from papier mache paintings to magazine clipping-covered switch plates.
"There was a period when I moved to Saco and drove here to continue doing the art class because I love it so much," Mitchell said. "I'm still learning. I never really thought that this was my path, but it's my way to let go of things. A lot of my work has meaning to me, and I don't want to sell it all. Art is the one thing I look forward to every week. I know there are so many things I can do in here. I can talk to other people or not. I have many different projects going — a mobile, a painting, a dream catcher. I always like learning new things, too."
Tenney Swift has been the art instructor at Shalom House for the past seven years. At a recent class, she shared with the group a list of poets and artists who have mental illnesses. It was a lengthy list with some surprising inclusions. The exercise was aimed at making sure students here understood that they are not alone.
Ken Pinet has been here since December of last year, when he decided he wanted to learn to something new.
"I never knew how to paint and wanted to try it," he said. Swift, their instructor, doesn't paint with oils so she enlisted the help of another student, Peter Nicolaides, to give Pinet some pointers.
"I let him use my white, and gave him some advice," Nicolaides said. The paint thinner Pinet was using bothered some people so he bought an odorless thinner. The class is structured to allow for personal work, but everyone has a community attitude when it comes to sharing supplies and suggestions, if asked.
"All the supplies we have here are for their use," Swift said. "If there's something we don't have, and it's not on the schedule, it's up to the student to provide that."
Regarding the shared responsibility, Swift says the hardest item to keep in stock is canvas for the aspiring artists.
"I have a lot going on, with doctors' appointments and all. It kind of brings me out of my problems," Pinet said of the Shalom House art program. "I still have to deal with them but not right now. Everyone here has been very helpful."
Ada M. Sargent has been in the art program for almost two years. She started by getting into painting and drawing.
"I taught a plastic canvas class here," she said of the art form, which is similar to cross-stitching but in a bigger size. "You can make posters, wall hangings, piggy banks. We made tissue boxes. Sometimes people make things as gifts. Sometimes it's part of a class, and we learn something we've never done before."
Sargent describes herself as a "jack of all trades, master of none. I come from a family of people who are artistic and talented in many ways. My brothers do woodworking. My sisters: drawing. My mother: musical instruments."
Sargent was working with water pencils on an Indian motif, with a list of tribes and symbols.
"We make gifts for someone. It makes them happy and makes us happy doing it," she said. "This helps my depression severely. Depression for me is very lonely. I like doing for people and being with people, intermixing. You're never too old to learn, I don't care who you are."
Sargent was working next to RozMarie Lau, who has been in the art program almost 13 years.
"I was homeless for two years and moved around, going to Boston and Rhode Island just to get off the street. Art is what I live for," said Lau, who has recently worked on a dreamcatcher and several paintings. "I'm a fiber artist. I love doing things with cloth and pens to make a picture. I tried oil and hated it. I use acrylics."
Sargent knows Lau's penchant for paisley so she gave her a pair of paisley pants.
"They didn't fit, so I made them into a skirt," Lau said. "I challenge myself, doing harder and harder projects." One such challenge was drawing 15 different kinds of petals.
Christine McKenney is newer to the program, having been here for almost a year. She was working on an Easter mandala, made with wood products and acrylic paint.
"Easter is coming up," she said. "I'm going to have a cross in the middle to show that Christ is the center of our life." McKenney has a book of collages at home and a wall covered in felt pictures that she has done through the Shalom House art program. "There are lots of dream catchers, but the feathers are all missing. My cat loves the feathers."
McKenney said working with art each week is the perfect remedy for whatever ails her.
"It's calming," she said. "It gives you something to do instead of sitting home."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 01:19
Written by David Carkhuff
A Saturday morning fatal shooting in Windham was the second police-involved shooting this year and the fourth fatal police-involved shooting in Maine since the beginning of 2013, according to the Maine Attorney General's Office.
On Saturday at 6:14 a.m., the Windham Police Department responded to a complaint of a suicidal male on Quartz Circle in Windham, according to the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff's office responded to assist in the investigation, and during the course of the initial investigation, the subject, identified by the sheriff's office as Steven McKinney, displayed a firearm and was shot by police.
The incident is currently under investigation by the Windham Police Department, Cumberland County Sheriff's Office and the Maine State Police at the direction of the Maine Attorney General's Office.
The deputy involved in the officer-involved shooting is Deputy Nicholas Mangino, the sheriff's office reported. Deputy Mangino has been a deputy at the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office for nearly two years.
Sheriff Kevin Joyce on Monday said Mangino had received crisis intervention training prior to Saturday's incident.
"It is training that has been found to be very useful," Joyce said, noting that he is trying to provide similar training for all personnel in the department. He estimated that 40 to 45 percent of the agency has gone through it.
"My goal is in the next couple of years to have everyone trained in it, including myself," Joyce said.
The deputy is on paid administrative leave, Joyce said, and it's policy for an officer involved in an officer-involved shooting to undergo a fitness for duty determination before returning to duty.
The Attorney General's office indicated that in 1995, the Maine Legislature passed a law requiring the AG's office to conduct an investigation when an officer deploys deadly force.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 April 2014 01:55
Written by Timothy Gillis
"If I had a hammer ... "
This epiphany came to Jake Ryan while he was on walkabout, traveling across the United States and working at a climbing gym during one of his stops.
"I saw a guy trading carpentry for time in the gym," said Ryan, the founder of the Open Bench Project, a new shared learning and working space opening on Thompson's Point. "I realized I could bring my hammer with me and do anything."
That realization has ballooned into a shared maker space that aims to help people become more self-dependent. Ryan grew up in Oxford Hills where childhood poverty pushed him to learn to make things.
"It was my avenue to getting what I wanted," he said. "It has always been an empowerment thing for me. If you can make an idea real, you can do anything else."
The motivation to start the Open Bench Project as a shared space for Maine's makers came from his own children, an 11-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter.
"I want my kids to learn this," Ryan said. "My son has learned to run tools in the woodshop for years, and he's learning to weld this year, making a jet-fuelled rocket ship. I give him full permission to explore."
Ryan employs the same concept at OBP: "If you're curious about it, let's dig into it," he says. He wanted to go to school for architecture but was nervous about going to New York, so he came back to the University of Southern Maine for art and math classes, bounced around a bit, and then took off for a national walkabout. He had helped some friends build the Maine Rock Gym in Portland, so that was a skill he could bring on the road with him.
When he came back to Maine, Ryan got a job on a construction crew as a laborer. He was able to rise through the ranks because he knew how to read blueprints from the architecture work of his younger days. He worked at Sterling Ropes in Scarborough, and then did some work for Solid Rock in Nashua. N.H. He learned to weld there, and they took him on for some sculptural concrete work.
"I traveled the country making large-scale climbing gyms," Ryan said. "It was a great experience, but it gets old traveling around with the same 10 guys." He came back to Maine and pitched a tent in the woods.
When he met his future wife, Jen, her parents were looking to build a house on Cushing's Island. Motivated by the process of sitting down with an architect, Ryan decided to go back to school — to the University of Maine, Augusta — to get his degree. Then, he was on to Boston Architectural College where he received his master's degree.
"I came back and tried to figure what is was I was going to do here," he said. "I'm not an architect like everyone else. My hands are rough."
He started a company called Maker Design Build, churning an idea into a real thing, and he "wanted to meet a bunch more makers. I thought it would be cool to share ideas and tools," he said. "That's straight-up economy. I recognized that you need some space to do some work, and then some tools. It took me 10 years of contracting to finally get the tools I needed. It's hard to garner those materials on your own."
The final nail in the building plan came to him while at a workshop in Somerville, Mass., called "How to Make a Maker Space."
"I hadn't even heard of the term," Ryan said. "I met 12 people there from southern Maine who were working on maker spaces. They were all fragmented, working on their own.
I came back here and found a lot of people saying, 'We ought to do this,' but not a lot of people doing it."
Now he has an ever-growing group of like-minded makers preparing to turn Thompson's Point into the creative hub of Portland.
"Makers ask for forgiveness not permission," Ryan said. "We just do it."
His plan for the Open Bench Project is to give members access to a professional cabinet shop, a machine shop, and an electronics lab with rapid prototyping equipment like 3-D printer and a laser cutter.
"My goal is to balance these things. I want to pull in engineers from USM's Venture Program. They are very smart in terms of advanced manufacturing with high-end tools, very knowledgeable about what you can do with these things. I'm also having discussions with the Maine College of Art because I'm also interested in the artistic side of it. I don't want just engineers or artists there. The business arm of this is helping people learn how to make money."
Ryan plans an education component to the Open Bench Project, as well.
"I want to get middle and high school kids in there to engage in some Just-in-Time learning," he said. "It starts with a question. Things you learn are dictated by your question. You come up against hurdles and learn how to get around them. It's a great life skill."
He plans to offer "Friday Night Design Charettes," social gatherings that feature quick and intense, collaborative design sessions. His long-range plans involve becoming a presence in all the area schools, "so all students would have access to the space and have the freedom to learn," he said. "School often has restrictions. I want people to be able to be curious. I'd love to have it so that businesses that work with us grow so large we have to kick them out to make space for the beginning makers."
The only trouble he's encountered on his project has been with insurance companies. He went through 12 of them before someone — Cross Insurance — agreed it was worth the risk.
"We wanted to blow things up, light things on fire, and have kids there," he said of the first dozen companies' concerns.
Ryan is proud to be part of the Thompson's Point project.
"When you come into town on a plane, train, or automobile, that's the first thing you see," he said.
Ryan was at SPACE Gallery recently for an indiegogo fundraiser kickoff. The developer at Thompson's Point has agreed to match funds raised up to $25,000, given to them in the form of a lease abatement, he said.
For more information on the Open Bench Project, visit www.obportland.org. To donate to the fundraiser, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/open-bench-project.
Last Updated on Monday, 14 April 2014 23:40