AUGUSTA — Medical marijuana advocates, some of whom say it is the only thing that stops their children’s seizures or credit it with making their own lives better by allowing them to stop taking harder pharmaceutical drugs, urged their fellow patients and caregivers at a medical marijuana trade show Sunday to stand up for their rights and fight against the stigma of their medicine.

Meanwhile a panel of lawyers at Home Grown Maine, the trade show put on at the Augusta Civic Center by Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine Trade Association, advised attendees with grow operations that if the police come around asking questions, to keep their mouths shut and unless police have a search warrant, to not let them in.

Susan Meehan, who said her late daughter, Cyndimae, may have been the first child in the world to legally go to school and receive medical marijuana after state legislation she testified for last year allowed Meehan to administer it to her daughter while in school in Augusta, said her daughter enjoyed two-and-a-half years out of her wheelchair and far fewer seizures due to medical marijuana being administered to her.

The Meehan family moved to Maine from Connecticut so Cyndimae could use medical marijuana, Meehan said while speaking as part of a panel on epilepsy and children Sunday. Cyndimae, who died in March of this year, had Dravet syndrome epilepsy that is characterized by seizures that don’t respond to typical medications. Her seizures were controlled and reduced to once or twice a week instead of hundreds a day when she was given marijuana-based tinctures, which are in liquid form and which her mother made and administered to her by mouth using a syringe.

Cyndimae attended 23 days of school in Augusta this year, her mother said, something she never could have done without being able to be administered the drug by her mother in school. She was given medical marijuana around four times during her 23 days in school this year. Usually it was administered in a nurse’s office, but once, because a seizure came on so suddenly, Susan Meehan administered it to her daughter in a school cafeteria. She said no students noticed as she used a syringe to put it in her daughter’s mouth and rub it into her gum line, which instantly prevents the seizure from coming on full force, she said, and greatly reduces their duration.

She and other panelists urged everyone to contact legislators and speak out to end the stigma associated with marijuana.

So did Parents 4 Pot activist and Massachusetts parent Jill Osborn, who said she tried every pharmaceutical option there was to stop the seizures of her daughter, Haley, without success. She advocates for new pediatric regulations to allow children to be treated with cannabis medicine.

“I’m in this because there is a big picture here. It isn’t just my daughter, or your daughter. It is the big picture of medical cannabis. That’s why we continue to fight,” Osborn said. “It is still stigmatized, so people are afraid to talk with their doctor. Don’t be. Speak to them. Share your knowledge so you can get them on board with your treatment. Knowledge is power.”

A panel of lawyers discussed legal issues surrounding medical marijuana, which is recognized in Maine but is still considered illegal under federal law.

Their advice to an audience of about 30 Home Grown Maine attendees: When police come knocking on your door asking about growing operations, be respectful and polite, but don’t answer their questions and, unless they’ve got a warrant, don’t let them in.

“If, God forbid, the police visit you, do not cooperate,” said Maine attorney Leonard Sharon in advice echoed by the panel’s other three lawyers. “If they have a search warrant, let them in to the area specified on the warrant. Do not talk to them, no matter if they say it will help you. The only thing (talking) does is give them more evidence. You’re just putting another nail in your coffin. Shut. Up.”

Organizers expected between 3,000 and 4,000 people to attend the fifth annual trade show before its close Sunday, up from last year’s approximately 2,500 attendees, according to Catherine Lewis, director of education and a board member of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine. While the target audience is Maine medical marijuana patients and caregivers, attendance is not restricted to only card-carrying members of either of those groups. The show is open to the public.

“Anybody can be here,” Lewis said. “We, as an organization, have been focused on educating people and reducing the stigma and letting people know what the real facts are.”

Kim Printy, executive director of the organization, said the city-owned Augusta Civic Center has been a great venue for the annual event, though they may be close to outgrowing it. She said the trade show is the largest such show in New England.

She said the city “has been wonderful to work with” and they love the site.

Just outside the civic center entrance an enclosed tent was set up where card-carrying patients could use vaporizers to inhale marijuana. Smoking is prohibited on the civic center’s grounds, but vaporizing is not, thus the “vape tent,” which Lewis said was so popular Saturday people had to wait to take their turn medicating there.

Vendors came from as far away as the United Kingdom for the event, officials said.

Mark Doherty, director of sales in the eastern region for urban-gro, which offers lighting, pest management, irrigation and other systems used to help grow marijuana, came from upstate New York to pitch his company’s services and products at the show.

He said Maine, with its many smaller-scale growers, is a “terrific” market for the direct-sales company, and he had been able to meet with multiple established Maine clients and potential new customers during the show. He said the company only provides services to clients who are growing legally.

Longtime Augusta resident and musician Dave Archibald, well-known for his previous band, Archie and Friends, said a number of health problems he is diagnosed with, including osteoporosis, scoliosis, lumbar spinal stenosis, TMJ and tendinitis, forced him to use pharmaceutical drugs including oxycodon and hydrocodone. Pain from the tendinitis, he said, made it painful to play guitar, and his TMJ made it painful to sing.

He quit those drugs in favor of medical marijuana several years ago and said his life has been better ever since. He said he doesn’t need painkilling pills any more, and he enjoys growing his own medication. He grows his own marijuana which he brings to Gorham-based SJR Labs, which turns the marijuana into a liquid extract which can be vaporized and inhaled in small pen-like devices.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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