On two occasions, Maine voters have authorized medical marijuana for people with serious illnesses. This was not a vote to legalize recreational marijuana use, but an attempt to treat the herb as much like a medicine as possible.

Operators of the newest dispensary in Portland should keep that in mind and not take advantage of Mainers’ compassion. Unfortunately, that’s not what they are advertising.

The website of Wellness Connection of Maine advertises a place for patients to relax near a fireplace and drink tea, while eating food laced with marijuana. It’s a setting that sounds more like a cocktail lounge than a dispensary and it is not what voters were promised.

A social setting encourages people to take more marijuana than they need, and creates a risk to the public if over-medicated users try to get into their cars and drive home after a treatment.

It sounds like the “clinics” in California, which are ways to sneak around marijuana’s status as an illegal drug. These “clinics” have drawn the attention of federal law enforcement agencies, which have begun to crack down on the facilities.

“We don’t want that to happen here,” said John Thiele, who supervises the dispensaries for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “You don’t encourage people to hang out in the local pharmacy.”

And you don’t encourage people to medicate themselves there, either. What Wellness Connection is promoting is not just a dispensary to distribute medicine, but a place to encourage its use.

The dispensary law was designed to fix something wrong with the original medical marijuana law: Patients were eligible to use marijuana, but they had no legal way of acquiring it unless they or a caregiver had the patience and the horticultural skills to grow it. Mainers wanted there to be a legal distribution system, not a legal way for businesses to cash in by promoting over-use.

The Wellness Connection still has time to revise its plans before the new dispensary opens. If they do not scale back their social amenities before opening, the state should push back.

The mandate is to treat marijuana like a medicine, and that ought to be enough.

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