Published Date Written by Timothy GillisHome Grown Maine, touted as the largest medical marijuana expo and tradeshow in New England, will bring experts, patients and practitioners of medical marijuana to Portland this weekend, in what is being deemed an atmosphere of greater tolerance following Tuesday’s election.
The event starts tonight, Nov. 9, with a Science vs. Stigma Forum at the Meg Perry Center, 644 Congress St., in Portland.
Beginning at 6:30 p.m., patients, caregivers and health providers will explain the changes in the law and the policies of prescribing, growing and using medical marijuana. There will also be a chance for questions from the public. The forum gets its name from the documentary film produced by Dave Wilkinson, who wrote ordinances which produced the first municipal vote for marijuana legalization since the 1970s — the vote of Starks, Maine in 1992 was years ahead of California’s Proposition 215 in 1996 and Maine’s Medical Marijuana Act of 1999. Wilkinson gives a talk on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 2:45 p.m. at the Holiday Inn by the Bay, as part of Homegrown Maine, a day full of speakers, vendors, music, an awards session, and a special room for legal users to light up.
Roger Leisner, photographer and founder of Radio Free Maine, helped organize the Friday night forum. He said the national shift to a more open attitude regarding marijuana, highlighted recently by pro-pot votes in Colorado and Washington, could have been predicted.
“It reminds me what Noam Chomsky said 20 years ago,” Leisner said. “I asked him why is marijuana illegal? Chomsky had an extremely long answer, but at the end he said as marijuana becomes more and more accepted, it will become legal, and tobacco will become illegal.” Leisner said he titled the forum as a tribute to Wilkinson, who also authored “Witchgrass: a pipe dream,” a novel based on real events in the 1990s as the War on Drugs invaded a small Maine town.
Hillary Lister, chair of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, the trade association for members, was excited about the new venue for this year’s convention and the improved planning that led up to it.
“Last year at the Augusta Civic Center, we had limited time to organize,” Lister said. “We had turnover at our organization before the event, but we’ve been preparing for this one more.” Even with the challenges to the inaugural event last year, 600 people turned out, with 30 vendors. And they expect many more this year.
“There will be greenhouse and composting supplies, electricians, herbalists,” Lister said. “It’s a full day. But really its power is the chance for people to get together and get answers. A lot of people who never would have spoken about (medical marijuana) at all have been openly communicating with each other about how it has helped in their lives.”
Dr. Dustin Sulak, from Hallowell, will be speaking at 3:20 p.m. Saturday. Sulak is an osteopathic physician, healing arts practitioner, teacher, and medical marijuana pioneer. He will talk about the uses of medical marijuana and understanding the body’s cannabinoid system. Wendy Chapkis, a professor at the University of Southern Maine and the author of “Dying to Get High” will also speak. John Theile, the Maine contact for the Department of Health and Human Services (medical use of marijuana program), will be on-hand all day to answer questions.
At 4:20 p.m., organizers will give out the Maine Green Cross Awards. The patient community group will be recognizing “five government and community leaders for significant and enduring contributions to the service of patients’ rights, and support for the Maine medical marijuana community.” The award recipients include State Rep. Deb Sanderson, State Rep. Diane Russell, State Rep. Mark Dion, Harry Brown (of Harry Brown’s farm in Starks) and Lynne Williams, esq.
After that, Crash Barry will be reading from “Marijuana Valley,” his new book due out soon. Barry is an author, political columnist and caregiver living in western Maine. His books include “Sex, Drugs, and Blueberries,” and “Tough Island.”
Later that night, the 220’s, a band from midcoast Maine whose members live on Route 220, from Belfast to Waldoboro to Rockland, will be playing.
Home Grown Maine will offer a slightly different atmosphere than a medical marijuana event, Cannafest, held in Deering Oaks Park this past summer. At Cannafest, medical marijuana was raffled off and given away by Chris Kenoyer, a caregiver. They won’t be doing that at Saturday’s convention, though. “It gets into a gray area in a big, public setting vs. one-on-one, caregivers to patient,” Lister said. But they will be having raffles for equipment — lights, compost mix, books, and ballast for controlling lights.
Last year, there was an outdoor tent where legal patients used vaporizers so they could medicate on site without violating the venue’s no-smoking policy. This year, organizers have a room reserved for medical marijuana patients called The Patient Lounge. Like last year, smokers will need to use vaporizers and be smoke-free while they take in their THC.
Admission to the Friday night talk is free. The suggested donation for Saturday’s convention is $10 for members of the public, $5 for veterans, but no one will be turned away for the inability to pay, organizers said. Home Grown Maine runs Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.