AUGUSTA — Certified patients will use medical marijuana in an outdoor tent on public property as part of a trade show at the Augusta Civic Center this weekend.

The sanctioned use of marijuana on public property — part of the two-day Home Grown Maine Trade Show organized by Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine — is unprecedented in the state, the result of intensive negotiations among Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office, the Augusta Police Department, event organizers and civic center personnel.

Accommodating legal users of the drug posed a sticky issue for civic center staff.

For instance, where could attendees who hold proper legal documentation be permitted to use marijuana for medical purposes? The state law that permits medical use of marijuana to relieve debilitating medical conditions bans people from smoking it in public places.

Organizers posed the question to Dana Colwill, civic center director.

The answer — negotiated through law enforcement officials and transmitted to the show organizers — is to use a vaporizer, which produces no smoke, in a controlled location.

Admission to the tent will be controlled by Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine staff, who will check the legal qualifications of persons.

Colwill described the informal memo being circulated between city offices as “what can they do and what can’t they do.”

Major Jared Mills, deputy chief of the Augusta Police Department, said the department did a lot of research in order to develop a procedure regarding enforcement of the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act.

“Because it’s a new law, we want to make sure we’re extremely educated on it and on enforcing it properly and equally,” Mills said. “We want to make sure we maintain the same standard throughout, not be lackadaisical or overbearing.”

Use of a vaporizer — a high-temperature apparatus that produces no smoke — appeared to be the solution, as suggested by organizers.

Mills said police will patrol the civic center as usual, but the department does not plan a special detail because he said projected attendance figures don’t warrant it.

“The DA’s office did suggest that we take each instance and use good officer discretion,” said a memo prepared for Mills by Augusta police Detective Sgt. Matt Clark. “The example they provided was a qualified subject who is in the woods smoking marijuana. They suggested in that case, we do not charge the individual.”

But police will cite anyone caught smoking marijuana in the parking lot and anyone leaving who appears to be operating under the influence of marijuana.

“We don’t anticipate any problems,” Mills said. “If we have questions, we can consult with DA at the time.”

Colwill, too, said he had to learn about the new marijuana law because of this show and another similar event tentatively set for next spring.

“We’ve been educated,” he said.

He said no marijuana can be sold on the property.

While Maine is one of 12 states to allow the use of marijuana for medical use, it remains illegal for all purposes under federal law, and U.S. prosecutors recently exercised a crackdown of dispensaries in California.

Paul McCarrier, legislative liaison and board member of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, said the group picked the Augusta venue because of what they had seen from Augusta police at previous events.

“The police were very hands off, very courteous,” he said.

McCarrier said the caregivers’ group, which describes itself as “dedicated to education and patient and caregiver advocacy,” has several goals for the show: “We’re trying to introduce a lot of people in the state to medical marijuana as a medical and scientific issue; traditionally, it’s known as recreational.”

He also said the entertainment will provide “something for people in state to have good time at.”

McCarrier said he expected more than two dozen exhibitors and sponsors — who are paying between $100 and $500 for a table or booth. He said 500 to 700 people may attend the show.

Vendors will include those who specialize in providing supplies to medical marijuana patients and providers, such as Maine Hydroponic Supply, of Jefferson.

Groups registered as exhibitors include Students for Sensible Drug Policy, of Farmington, and Atlantic Cannabis, Portland.

McCarrier said this the final festival of the year.

The show is to run 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 per person.

Information about the caregivers group and the show is available on the Web at www.mmcmonline.org.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]


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