A Gardiner medical marijuana caregiver says dozens of people took part in a clean-up Saturday in which he and other growers provided a gram of marijuana for every bag of trash collected on city streets by participants.

Dennis Meehan, who runs Summit Medical Marijuana with other members of his family in downtown Gardiner, said “several dozen” participants filled more than 100 trash bags — every bag they had on hand.

While he said he isn’t sure how much marijuana he gave away, the trash bin was filled beyond the top, and overflowing.

Meehan said some people collected trash but did so just to participate, and didn’t accept the offer of the free gift of marijuana. He also said a gram of marijuana isn’t very much, and he believes most people who took part in the clean-up did so because they care about their community and wanted to help, not just for the small amount of marijuana. He said other cannabis providers also contributed marijuana to be gifted to participants.

“It’s really people coming together, it was a special thing to see people being selfless and giving their time on a really hot and sunny day,” Meehan said. “A gram is a really small amount. People were doing it because they are caring individuals.”

Meehan said he informed city officials and the police chief that the event was taking place, and he talked to participants ahead of time to remind them not to use cannabis while they were in public collecting trash. Public use of recreational marijuana is still illegal.

“I’m the kind of person who likes to keep things within the laws,” Meehan said. “I talked to people ahead of time, about not using it in public. They weren’t out in our town using cannabis.”

Police Chief James Toman said Meehan came to see him Friday, the day before the event, to make sure the police department was aware of it. Toman said he asked Meehan questions “to make sure this was being done on the up and up,” and advised him to encourage participants to be careful and not put themselves in harm’s way as they picked up trash along the city’s roadsides.

Toman said as long as the marijuana was gifted, not sold, it appeared there was nothing illegal going on at the event. He said police received no reports of public use of marijuana Saturday, received no calls related to the event, and the event had no impact on city services.

“From what I know of the event, did it break any laws? No, as long as Mr. Meehan gifted his gram of marijuana to people over 21, there is nothing illegal about that,” Toman said.

While Meehan, and his wife Tracy, are both medical marijuana caregivers, participants in the clean-up didn’t have to be licensed medical marijuana patients to receive the free gift of marijuana for picking up trash, they only had to be 21 years or older.

He said he’d like to see the clean-up be extended statewide.

“I’d like to see this become a thing in every community,” Meehan said. “Because we love our state and would really like to see people come together. That’s what we need as a state. We need unity.”

Last November Maine voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana, making it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana.

There are about 28 grams in an ounce, so it is legal in Maine to possess up to about 70 grams of marijuana. Medical marijuana caregivers can possess more than that limit.

Toman agreed with Meehan’s description that a gram of marijuana, or roughly one-70th of the amount someone can legally possess, is a small amount.

Recreational marijuana retail stores are currently barred as state officials look to put together regulatory rules for them. But while there is currently no legal mechanism to sell recreational marijuana, it is legal to give it away as a gift.

Meehan said he was moved to create the event after seeing local students cleaning up in the community. He said it was also modeled after a similar event in Colorado.

Meehan said people in Gardiner care about their community, and said participants in the clean up had to look for trash to collect, because people already do a pretty good job keeping the community clean.

Toman said regardless of how people feel about marijuana being legalized in Maine, trash being removed from the roadsides is a positive thing.

“If it all came from roadsides, and Gardiner is cleaner as a result, even though not everybody agrees with legalization, if a little good can come out of it, this may be it,” he said. “The Meehans seem to want to be positive contributors to the Gardiner community.”

Meehan said Riverside Disposal agreed to haul off the trash collected from the clean-up at no charge.

Meehan said marijuana helped both his grandparents escape pain at the end of their lives, when his grandmother had serious heart disease and his grandfather had pancreatic cancer.

Marijuana is still deemed illegal by federal authorities and the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, putting it in the same category as heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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