The head of Maine’s largest purveyor of legal, medical marijuana said on Wednesday that she also supports the regulated, recreational use of marijuana by people over 21 and the creation of a market to satisfy their demand.

In November, that’s just what Maine voters approved when they narrowly voted yes on Question 1, a citizen referendum that allows for the creation of a recreational marijuana industry in the state. This week, state lawmakers are beginning to consider how to implement those new rules.

Given the coming changes, Patricia Rosi, chief executive officer of Wellness Connection of Maine, was the featured speaker at a breakfast held Wednesday morning by the Kennebec Valley of Chamber of Commerce. Because of the snow that fell, she ended up delivering her talk from home using a video feed.

Rosi’s company runs four of the state’s eight licensed medical marijuana dispensaries — in Gardiner, Bath, Brewer and Portland — as well a cultivation facility in Androscoggin County.

Some supporters of Maine’s medical marijuana program opposed Question 1, arguing that it would make it harder for patients under the age of 21 to continue receiving cannabis.

But Rosi is not one of them. On Wednesday, she pointed to a few ways that the medical and recreational marijuana industries can parallel or even complement each other.

For one thing, Maine health care providers are not able to certify patients to use medical marijuana unless they have certain medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. But some supporters would like more medical conditions to be included under that umbrella, Rosi said Wednesday morning, and recreational access would allow those who think they need marijuana for a condition to obtain it.

“We’ve always been in favor of the legalization of marijuana because we view it as a way to grant access to more Mainers to marijuana for more conditions,” Rosi said. “The state does not want to expand conditions, so we’ve always been in favor of recreational to provide more access.”

Appearing on a projection screen at the chamber breakfast, she also said the creation of a well-regulated recreational marijuana market potentially will collapse the current illegal market. She referred to Colorado, a state that legalized recreational marijuana use in 2014, yet has maintained a medical marijuana industry at the same time.

“There’s still a very strong medical business in Colorado,” she said.

Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level but legal in a growing number of states, Rosi said she is often asked whether incoming President Donald Trump could roll back any of the rules that have been approved in states like Maine.

Rosi is skeptical about that possibility. “I think this has reached too much of a groundswell to be reversed and undone, but this remains to be seen,” she said.

Rosi did not address whether Maine Wellness Connection is considering expanding into the recreational market.

The legalization bill passed by voters in November allows adults to posses up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and to cultivate a limited number of plants. That law is expected to take effect Jan. 30.

The bill also gave state government nine months to develop rules for the sale of recreational marijuana at shops and social clubs, but this week lawmakers have been considering a bill that would give them until February 2018 to make those rules. At the same time, a number of Maine communities are convening cannabis task forces and considering moratoriums that would give them time to prepare for the new rules.

Karen Tucker, a coordinator at Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, a public health group based in Gardiner, attended the Wednesday chamber breakfast. During a question-and-answer session, she informed Rosi that she is hoping to join the Gardiner task force. She also expressed concern about the marketing of both recreational and medical marijuana in similar ways.

“If (kids) see the adults using more and more marijuana, if the term ‘marijuana’ is used for both consistently, it’s a very confusing thing,” Tucker said. “I believe to message to the youth, who actually can have some negative effects on their developing brain, that’s the constituency we want to protect. What are you doing to help make that clear to potential consumers?”

Rosi said the existing medical marijuana products are already clearly marked as drugs, but she agreed with Tucker that there needs to be education at all levels about the new rules.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


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