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In my last post I blogged about how depressing it is to find myself on the defense since the legalization of recreational marijuana here in Maine.  Many of us have spent years building Maine’s medical marijuana program, and I am proud of the relationships we’ve built with state officials and lawmakers along the way.

Together this network of stakeholders has honed the program into one of the best in the nation.  I can’t help but feel all that progress is being upended by the special interests patrolling the halls and hearings at the State House this session — a veritable feeding frenzy kicked up by the potential profits a recreational market in Maine might bring.

I also can’t help but feel the push to roll the medical marijuana program and the recreational market together is about that frenzy needing more to feed on.

It’s not that I don’t expect to earn a modest living from my caregiver business; however, I didn’t get involved with medical marijuana for the money.  I came to it from a very personal place, when my husband and I were desperate to find a helpful treatment for a medical condition that other treatments did not help.

The more I learned about the healing potential of marijuana, the more determined I became to be a part of sharing that healing with others.  Becoming a caregiver was the best way to share healing with others, and I’ve since discovered I find working with cancer patients especially fulfilling.  It’s an exciting time to work with cancer patients, given the body of research emerging from Israel and other places.

My husband, Glenn, and I have also been supporting patients who are addicted to opiates and other substances or patients who are looking to reduce the amount of medications they take.  Again, this support comes from a very personal place because Glenn is a recovering addict.  We’re from a small, coastal town that has been devastated by addiction.

The other night we were looking at old photos from the 70’s and 80’s, and sadly, too many of our family and friends have been lost either from overdoses or from cumulative effect of their substance use disorders.  Our work with addicts is simply about preserving life; we’re tired of watching people die.

Recently, staff from NBC’s Today Show came to Homegrown Healthcare to meet with Glenn and I, along with veterans and other patients using medical marijuana to treat their conditions, including addiction.

The segment aired May 18th, and it is so well-done.  The feedback has been amazing.  Our addiction epidemic here in Maine and around the country is tragic, and the Today Show segment offers a sense of hope through treatment with medical marijuana and support from the medical marijuana community.

Those are the things I wish I were talking to legislators about — increased patient access to the program, a broadening of the list of allowed conditions that can be treated, the development of a database linking conditions to strains that have been tried for treatment and to what success.  There’s so much to talk about in terms of policies that would support improving our patients’ health.

One of the people who contacted me about the Today Show segment said we’re pioneers here in Maine when it comes to supporting recoveries with medical marijuana.  I like being called pioneers — our medical marijuana program is viewed as a leader by the national community-at-large.  I want us to continue to be leaders, but we need policy-makers to appreciate the value medical marijuana brings to Maine and Mainers.

Time spent defending the program’s existence is time NOT spent improving the lives of patients who rely on the program.  Lawmakers need to preserve the program as a separate entity from recreational marijuana sales in order to protect the best interests of our patients.

Catherine Lewis

Owner, Homegrown Healthcare Alternative Wellness, Apothecary, and Learning Center