Veteran Forms Cooperative of MMJ Growers
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Veteran Forms Cooperative of MMJ Growers
Posted by CN Staff on May 16, 2011 at 06:28:01 PT
By Michael Shepherd, Staff Writer 
Source: Kennebec Journal
Maine --  A young veteran has organized a cooperative of medical marijuana growers and patients, saying clients have dubbed him "a pioneer" of Maine's budding new industry.Robert Rosso, 25, of Gardiner, and other local growers have organized Kennebec Healing, a business that delivers hydroponic marijuana grown in three locations to 14 patients from Waterville to Windham. "Some of my higher-class patients tell me, 'You're blazing the trails for medical marijuana'," he said. "I've had people call me a pioneer."
Since 1999, the state has allowed the prescription and limited possession of medical marijuana for a certain list of conditions. But it was not until a November 2009 referendum that the state was prompted to create a new, formal method of legal distribution that has put Rosso and others like him into a new class of "potrepreneurs."Maine patients can apply for a medical marijuana identification card issued by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services that allows them to possess 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana if obtained from one of three sources: 13 state-licensed dispensaries, many of which have yet to open; one's own garden; or a state-registered "caregiver."Dispensaries are allowed to sell a given patient 2.5 ounces of marijuana per 15-day period. Someone growing his or her own can have up to 2.5 ounces and six plants -- only three of which may be flowering.Rosso, his business partners and some of their family members belong to the third class of provider: the individually licensed caregiver. These people can legally provide marijuana to no more than five patients with proper documentation, and are allowed to produce only 2.5 ounces and six plants for each patient served.The law does not prohibit a group of caregivers from banding together to share knowledge. But in doing so, they cannot exceed the amount of harvested marijuana allowed by law.As such, nonprofits such as Compassionate Caregivers of Maine, which connects patients to a network of caregivers without selling marijuana on its own, are legal.And so, on the surface, are groups such as Kennebec Healing, which go a step farther -- aiming to offer patients advice, networking and a wide array of marijuana varieties.Rosso has plans to establish a website for the business soon, where patients registered with the state can shop online with unique login information to see what types of medication are in stock.It would be a closed network -- the general public would not be allowed in.John Thiele, program director in charge of the medical marijuana program's day-to-day adminstration, said growers who combine knowledge -- not resources -- are within the letter of the law."The main thing is that they don't join their grow or their harvest," he said. Potrepreneurialism Rosso and his main partner, who declined to be identified for this story, formed a co-op after both broke into individual caretaking.An Army veteran honorably discharged after a major injury in July 2009, Rosso said he began growing marijuana for personal use in the summer of 2010 to manage pain."It has made my life a lot better," he said. "A lot of people think these people are hippies and stoners. That's not it at all."He said they help each other with technology in their harvest areas, but that their crops are kept separately."I have mine in my location. I do mine," Rosso said. "He has his."Rosso's partner's location is in a home in a residential neighborhood just outside Windham. He did not want the specific location revealed for fear of robbery.In January 2011, Rosso quit his job at a Lewiston post office to focus on this business.Before being contacted by a reporter, he said only family and his partner knew he was in the business.He said he has not made "a dime" yet, but will -- once he has more equipment and a larger network of patients.Rosso expects to make at least $40,000 per year, working part time.But, he warned that growing marijuana for patients, which includes a 12-week period between seed and first harvest, has high startup costs and is "not a get-rich-quick scheme.""I have spent enough money on this to buy a brand new car," Rosso said. "To do it right -- what I consider right -- for five patients ... you're talking $25 (thousand) to $30,000."According to Rosso, many of patients the co-op serves are unable to leave home, so he makes a point to deliver marijuana directly to all clients."There is no reason you should have to drive to me. You're trusting me with your plants," he said. "That would be sort of the street mentality that I'm against." Nipped In The Bud?  Rosso demonstrated his partner's operation in the Windham area recently.It involves a cloning process in which a segment of a mature plant is cut off, placed into a growing medium then replanted, which eventually leads to an exact copy of the "mother" plant.One upstairs bedroom is used for harvesting the clones. Another bedroom is used for "vegging" the young plants -- basically the growing stage between sprouting and flowering.Once plants flower, they are moved to the basement, where a "flowering room" utilizes state-of-the-art growing technology including LED lights, a reverse osmosis watering system, air filtration and climate and carbon dioxide controls.The scent of marijuana is not present in the room. From the outside, the house -- though vacant of people and purchased specifically for marijuana growing, according to Rosso -- seems like any other in the area.But the group's formation comes at a time of great uncertainty for those cultivating, procuring and monitoring medical marijuana -- in Maine and the 14 other states and the District of Columbia that allow it.In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder directed federal prosecutors not to pursue cases against medical marijuana patients in states where voters approved it.But in recent weeks, the federal government has apparently done an about-face. Federal prosecutors have sent letters warning officials in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington state to back away from plans to liberalize medical marijuana laws.In Washington, Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, cited those letters when she recently vetoed a medical marijuana bill she previously supported.So while marijuana is considered a harmful and illegal drug by the federal government, states' acceptance of it as a new agricultural industry -- whose national earnings have recently been projected at $1.7 billion in 2011 by an independent financial analysis firm -- has been thrown into jeopardy."You're counting on the grace of God and the federal government to leave you alone," said Gregory Braun, an Otisfield-based criminal defense and business attorney who advised Rosso. "That's a lot of faith to place in a government,"Meanwhile, in the Legislature, Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, has sponsored L.D. 1296, "An Act to Act To Amend the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act To Protect Patient Privacy," which would loosen some restrictions on medical marijuana in Maine -- making patient registration optional, preventing municipalities from putting unreasonable burdens on caregivers and expanding the list of qualifying conditions.But the bill also would allow a crackdown to prohibit collectives from sharing resources -- either money or marijuana.The bill received an "ought to pass" vote in committee Tuesday.Sanderson said other states with medical marijuana laws have had problems with licensed people illegally combining their efforts, though she admitted she had not heard of any such instance in Maine.Sanderson said she "would hope" the proposed bill would not prohibit companies such as Kennebec Healing from operating, as long as patients' grows are kept to separate caregivers."That was one of the prohibitions that Maine doesn't have," Sanderson said. "It doesn't hurt to be proactive."Darrell Crandall, division commander for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, said he has seen no related impact on law enforcement in Maine since the new federal letters."We make sure we are only targeting people in violation of (state) law," he said. "Is it more time-consuming and difficult to do that now? Yes. But we are taking the time necessary to do so."Crandall said he has handled cases where people found possessing marijuana have claimed they were doing so under medical marijuana laws, but were caught lying upon investigation. Dazed, Confused  According to Rosso, he has had two instances in which he declined to work with a potential client because he or she wanted to receive more than the legal amount of marijuana."I deal with almost every patient at the beginning and screen them all," he said. "I honestly don't believe we have a patient that doesn't need medication."But attorney Braun said unaddressed loopholes in Maine law can leave caretakers in legal jeopardy.He gave an example of a caretaker who grows and harvests 2.5 ounces for himself and 2.5 for a patient. This would put the caregiver technically over the aforementioned legal amount until he sold the excess to patients."The moment they harvest it, they're in violation of Maine law," Braun said.Rosso and Braun said many prospective medical marijuana patients express confusion about Maine laws."The state says what these people can do and then drops them off," Rosso said. "You wouldn't even believe it. I can guarantee I answer more phone calls and emails than the state does about this."Braun said he receives calls from people simply asking for explanation of the laws."Most of what I do is answer calls and provide advice," he said. "Many can't figure it out and don't know what it means."Thiele, the state program director, said his office has handled an increasing number of inquiries regarding the law."In the last couple of weeks, we've seen an uptick in calls," he said.According to Braun, many doctors in Maine have shied away from prescribing marijuana to patients.He only knew of "three or four" advertising they are prescribing it and said reasons why could be stigma or the relative youth of the law."There's a fear in many doctors that patients may be drug seekers," he said.But patients from all walks of life, from business class to the very poor, are served by the co-op, Rosso said.The rapport built with them is a distinguishing strength of his business, Rosso said. "Long-term relationships" are the goal, he said."One time, I delivered (marijuana) at 12:30 a.m. to a patient who couldn't sleep because he was having seizures."He was all embarassed, and I said, 'Don't worry about it. I can go back to sleep'," he said. "I served my country. I'm about helping people."Source: Kennebec Journal (Augusta, ME)Author: Michael Shepherd, Staff Writer Published: May 16, 2011Copyright: 2011 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.Website: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on May 17, 2011 at 19:37:22 PT
HD Net on Driving and Impairment
We just finished watching the program. When I watch something like this I try to step back and look at it like a person who wasn't sure about marijuana in an aspect. I felt it was hard to follow from that point of view and it made people think that it was hazardous without saying it was. 
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Comment #12 posted by ekim on May 17, 2011 at 19:08:52 PT
but wait its not to late they have it backwards the context of international treaty law, this wording is notable in that the Single Convention is the only United Nations treaty characterising the activity it seeks to regulate, control or prohibit as being ‘evil’. [...]LIVE
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Comment #11 posted by runruff on May 17, 2011 at 10:46:34 PT
Honest thief vs dishonest thieves.
When a reporter asked famous bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks he said , Because that is where the money is!"Why Politicians want to go to Washington is because that is where the money is. This brand of robber is the most detestable because they lie about their motives.
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Comment #10 posted by ekim on May 17, 2011 at 08:55:57 PT
MMJ Rally next Wed Lansing MI Michigan Medical Marijuana Rally 
May 25th in Lansing. 
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on May 16, 2011 at 14:28:05 PT
I would have to practice on a simulator but the man has used it before. He didn't impress me as being concerned to try to do a good job. 
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Comment #8 posted by Hope on May 16, 2011 at 13:05:04 PT
Simulators are like video games.In any state I would do better at the real thing over a computer/video/simulator game. I'm terrible at computer/video/simulator games. Terrible.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on May 16, 2011 at 11:19:20 PT
Hopefully the program will be better then the trailer.
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Comment #6 posted by paul armentano on May 16, 2011 at 10:42:36 PT
the participants aren't cops
The cops are the ones over the participants shoulder.I sat down with the HD Net producers and spoke about this issue for at least 30 minutes. Whether any of that will actually show up in the report is another story.The simulator footage I believe was shot during or just after the NORML Conference, as the producers attended the conference and were soliciting attendees and local residents to participate in their ‘study.’My expectations, after viewing the trailer, is that this will be rather sensationalistic.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on May 16, 2011 at 10:24:40 PT
If you watch the video the cop came out and acted aloof and sat down and did his best to act like he was in la la land. People that have smoked and driven stay very alert not la de da.
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Comment #4 posted by BGreen on May 16, 2011 at 09:14:29 PT
Yeah, FoM
Why don't they let us do the test to show the effectiveness of the cops. I guarantee you I'd have a hard time being more of a stupid ass liar than all of these stupid ass lying cops.The Reverend Bud Green
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on May 16, 2011 at 07:49:05 PT
What's Up With That!
They are cops doing the simulation it said! It's to their benefit to not do well. That is unbelievable. 
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on May 16, 2011 at 07:41:29 PT
HDNet World Report: Tuesday at 9PM ET
Coming up Tuesday at 9PM ET on HDNet World Report:DWHigh: Medical Marijuana and DrivingVideo:
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Comment #1 posted by George Servantes on May 16, 2011 at 07:38:27 PT:
We need more people like this in great state of ME
Sick people do not deserve to be suffering.
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