Pot bal­lot drives put med­i­cal, recre­ational users at odds

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Pa­trick Whit­tle

PORT­LAND, MAINE >> A hand­ful of recre­ational mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion drives has the med­i­cal pot in­dus­try brac­ing for some­thing it never ex­pected to deal with: com­pe­ti­tion.

Le­gal­iza­tion is on the bal­lot in five states this Novem­ber, and all five cur­rently al­low some form of med­i­cal mar­i­juana al­ready.

Grow­ers, med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als and users of med­i­cal mar­i­juana say they worry that peo­ple who want med­i­cal mar­i­juana will buy it on the open mar­ket in­stead of go­ing through the has­sle of get­ting a doc­tor’s rec­om­men­da­tion.

“This is be­ing struc­tured for big cor­po­ra­tions to come in and in a very short pe­riod of time wipe out the care­givers,” said Lori Libbey, a board di­rec­tor of a Maine group cam­paign­ing against le­gal­iza­tion and a nurse who ad­min­is­ters cannabis. “I won­der who is go­ing to be able to pro­vide for pe­di­atric pa­tients.”

But in Maine and the other states con­sid­er­ing le­gal­iza­tion, oth­ers in the mar­i­juana busi­ness are very much look­ing for­ward to the pos­si­bil­ity of le­gal­iza­tion. And some pro­po­nents be­lieve med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­fes­sion­als just don’t want to lose their mo­nop­oly.

Recre­ational le­gal­iza­tion mea­sures are also on bal­lots in Ari­zona, Cal­i­for­nia, Mas­sachusetts and Ne­vada. Con­cerns from med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­fes­sion­als have also cropped up in those states, and they have echoed sim­i­lar strug­gles in states that have al­ready le­gal­ized recre­ational mar­i­juana, such as Ore­gon and Colorado.

Com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­i­juana mar­ket has be­come part of the land­scape in Colorado, which saw nearly $1 bil­lion in sales of med­i­cal and recre­ational mar­i­juana last year. The state went le­gal in 2012.

Paul Ar­men­tano, spokesman for the lead­ing mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion group NORML, said some med­i­cal users and ad­vo­cacy groups worry about po­ten­tial cor­po­ra­ti­za­tion of mar­i­juana as the mar­ket ex­pands. Ten­sion be­tween med­i­cal and recre­ational mar­i­juana sup­port­ers, he said, has al­ready be­come an is­sue in Cal­i­for­nia.

NORML is sen­si­tive to the con­cerns of med­i­cal mar­i­juana users, Ar­men­tano said, but also un­der­stands some of the con­ster­na­tion is about angst over free-mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion.

“There is a con­cern among in­di­vid­u­als who largely have the mar­i­juana mar­ket solely to them­selves that the ad­vent of broader le­gal­iza­tion will in­tro­duce com­pe­ti­tion into the ex­ist­ing mar­ket and that com­pe­ti­tion will pose a threat to their ex­ist­ing busi­ness model,” he said.

Some ad­vo­cates of med­i­cal mar­i­juana feel state reg­u­la­tions are the key to mak­ing sure med­i­cal mar­i­juana sur­vives in the age of le­gal pot.

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