Published Date Written by David CarkhuffA TV news crew from Vermont visited Portland's medical marijuana dispensary Friday, hoping to shed light on how Maine's 1999-enacted medical cannabis legalization is faring.
Vermont is in the midst of setting up its own dispensaries for medical marijuana under a 2004 law.
"This is the next thing in Vermont, so we feel a responsibility to give our audience a sense of how this is working in Maine," George Mallet, news anchor at WPTZ, said prior to filming the segment at Wellness Connection of Maine, on Congress Street.
The news segment, tentatively scheduled to air in February and available for viewing via YouTube by a link at wptz.com, profiles four patients and a caregiver. Three of the patients sat down at a table at Wellness Connection to answer Mallet's questions. A fourth was to be profiled at her home in Portland. The TV news crew also interviewed members of the Wellness Connection staff.
Established in 2011, Wellness Connection of Maine operates four of Maine's eight state-licensed, nonprofit, medical cannabis dispensaries, according to its website.
Patricia Rosi, marketing and communication specialist with Wellness Connection of Maine, said the Vermont TV station isn't the only interested party to come looking for advice or information.
"We receive a lot of calls like that, 'What would you advise in the legislature?'" she said, citing a typical question. "Because we have under our belt almost a year already of fully operating dispensaries, we have gathered a lot of learning that we can share."
The information compiled in Maine is "all positive," she said, noting that 40 jobs were directly created through the launch of Wellness Connection.
"I compare that to a start-up environment. We learned a lot. There were some bumps in the road, but we overcame every single one of them," Rosi said. "Everything that is mainstream for another business becomes more complicated. Getting insurance, getting a credit card system."
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, according to ProCon.org (http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881).
Vermont's two approved medical marijuana dispensaries include Champlain Valley Dispensary, approved for Burlington with the goal of opening and serving patients within six months, the Marijuana Policy Project reported. A second applicant, Patients First Inc., has been approved for Waterbury. In Vermont, the General Assembly placed the responsibility for managing the program and creating a registry within the Department of Public Safety (many states, including Maine, place this responsibility with the Department of Health and Human Services).
In Maine, state regulators have revisited the rules for medical marijuana, prompting legislators to further refine the program. Patients interviewed by WPTZ overwhelmingly championed medical cannabis and praised the dispensary as a comfortable, professional environment.
"We always say here Maine is doing medical cannabis the way it should be," Rosi said. "We're becoming more and more a model for other states that are starting to look into it. We're receiving lots of calls from Massachusetts about what does it take?"
Under a new law, Massachusetts tasked its Department of Public Health to oversee medical marijuana and to write regulations by this spring.
For more about the news segment, visit the Wellness Connection's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/wcmaine?fref=ts.