A jar containing the strain Killer D is on display at a medical marijuana facility in Unity, Maine on April 22, 2016 . (Robert F. Bukaty, Associated Press)

A cannabis trade show in Maine sparks debate over recreational pot

PORTLAND, Maine — The debate over whether to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine took center stage at an event that bills itself as New England’s largest cannabis trade show.

Home Grown Maine 2016, a major event for growers, vendors and patients of medical marijuana, took place at the Augusta Civic Center in Maine’s capital city on June 4-5, 2016. The trade show happened about five months before residents will vote on whether to make recreational use of marijuana legal in the state.

David Boyer, a Portland activist from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said his group set up a table at the event and attempt to use the weekend to enlist campaigners at the show.

“Politics is about solidifying your base and getting them out and getting them connected,” he said. “We’ll use it as a recruiting event.”

But some in the medical marijuana industry have expressed reluctance over legal recreational pot. The event is hosted by Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, a trade association that is in favor of legalization but has members who have expressed reservations about the current proposal on the table.

Some medical marijuana growers are concerned that legalizing recreational pot could ultimately damage the state’s medical marijuana infrastructure, said Catherine Lewis, board chairwoman of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine. She said the issue will be addressed during a members-only meeting at Home Grown on Sunday, June 5 that will include factions for and against the referendum.

“The fear is still there that people are working to disassemble the medical program or corner the market,” she said.

Adults 21 and older would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana if Maine’s referendum passes.

The measure almost didn’t make it onto the ballot, but in April Maine’s chief justice removed a legal hurdle to allow a review of referendum petitions to resume. Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap then ruled that the petitioners had enough signatures.