Medical marijuana users shared hits off a vaporizer and compared buds of their home-grown efforts Saturday, separated by just the thin vinyl wall of a tent and several feet of Augusta Civic Center parking lot from Augusta Police Sgt. Christopher Shaw.
The marijuana use taking place inside the tent was not why Shaw was there.
Police, Civic Center staff, the District Attorney’s Office and organizers of the first Home Grown Maine — the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine’s first ever trade show and festival — had agreed beforehand medicinal users with the proper legal documentation could use marijuana inside the tent erected in a parking lot of the city-owned Augusta Civic Center.
The event, and the designated spot on public property where marijuana could be used, in full view of passing law enforcement through the doorless entrance of the tent, and others, were firsts.
“This is the first time we’ve had permission to medicate in public, the first time,” said Chris Kenoyer, of Portland, a patients’ advocate and activist who uses marijuana for severe and chronic back pain caused by a degenerative spinal injury. “That’s a step forward for all Maine patients.”
Shaw was there for the mundane task of telling a food vendor, who was selling fried food from his trailer parked just behind the tent, he couldn’t sell food on the property without prior arrangements with the Civic Center.
Later Saturday afternoon, Shaw said that was about the only problem at the medical marijuana event.
Dana Colwill, director of the Civic Center, agreed things were running smoothly considering the unusual nature of the event, and the request of organizers to have a place where medical marijuana patients could legally use.
“This is really new ground,” Colwill said, following a brief discussion with organizers in which he reminded Ron Norton, of the Maine Green Cross patient caregiver organization, who was overseeing the vaporizer tent, that anyone entering the tent had to first show legal documentation indicating they were a medical marijuana patient. “The first thing I did was contact Augusta police, so I knew what (medical marijuana patients) can do or not do.”
Colwill said Saturday as the two-day event got started representatives of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, a patient and caregiver trade organization, had been great to work with and careful about following the rules.
Paul McCarrier, legislative liaison for the group, expected 500 to 700 people Saturday. He praised city officials for working with the group “and accommodating patients who need their medicine.”
While attendees of the show didn’t have to prove they are medical marijuana users or caregivers to enter the Civic Center, McCarrier said the event was not targeted at recreational pot smokers.
“This is not an appropriate place for recreational use,” McCarrier said.
Hilary Maitland, of Augusta, who uses marijuana to manage the pain caused by multiple injuries she suffered in a car accident, including arthritis in her spine, was appreciative of the event as a way to learn how to grow better medication and support the community.
She said she was not worried about the potential of federal agents busting medical marijuana users at the event. Marijuana use is still illegal under federal law.
“I figure as long as I’m doing everything by the rules, that I’ll be OK,” she said. “I’m not affecting anybody but myself. You’d think there are bigger things (for the federal government) to worry about.”
Inside the Civic Center auditorium, business appeared to be relatively slow for vendors hawking grow lights, clothing, organic compost, buttons and bumper stickers, crafts, jewelry and other items.
Josh Woodbury, a founder of the Lakes Region-based Alternative Botanicals caregivers, sat at a table filled with plastic bowls containing marijuana buds with names like purple kush and strawberry cough written on tags made of duct tape, as well as brownies, lotions and liquids. He said his group often works with patients who are looking for ways other than smoking to medicate themselves with marijuana.
He said edibles are a growing method, with the potential to use marijuana to make chili, spaghetti sauce, whoopie pies and other foods.
Jake McClure, a founder and board member of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, manned the Jefferson-based Maine Hydroponics Supply booth, for whom he consults on grow rooms, showing off devices meant to help people clone and grow plants.
Presenters at the event included Hallowell-based osteopathic Dr. Dustin Sulak, a nationally recognized expert on medical marijuana; Alysia Melnick, public policy counsel for the Maine Civil Liberties Union and, remotely by Skype, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, author of books and websites on medical marijuana.
The event, which was scheduled to continue until midnight Saturday and resume Sunday morning, also featured bands and other entertainment.
– Article from Morning Sentinel.