Eric Friberg is one of the founders of Kirsten’s Compassion, a medical marijuana collective in Maine named for his late sister. Kirsten Friberg was living in San Francisco when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which metastasized and killed her at age 32—a story he later told in Maine while campaigning for more liberal medical marijuana laws there. Editor’s note: Kirsten Friberg was a college friend of the author.
Tell us some of your story.
My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in California. We thought she was gonna be able to come home, and get better here or pass away with family around here. That didn’t end up happening because her cancer metastasized and spread everywhere, eating her spine, and she was unable to travel.
More importantly, she was unable to get cannabis. It took her two or three months of bureaucratic red tape and time to be able to get her card in the first place. Instead of being able to keep her medicine down and more importantly food down to help nourish her body, she was throwing all that up. It’s my firm belief that if she would have had cannabis, she would have been able to beat the cancer.
Here in Maine, we had a referendum in ’99 to help people that want to take care of sick people, a limit of five people. There were very few people who took advantage of that system, of care-giving for patients. We were some of the first in the state to take advantage of that law. I was arrested. We were raided twice. I suffered a beating at the county jail.
Yeah, I had handcuffs put on, by the county sheriffs. They pulled me over. I think I was the first and only guy in the state to get their medicine back from the police. I filed my own motions. Now that I’ve done it, people in Maine can use that a precedent. They took my dog to the pound. I did get my dog back. They broke one of my ribs. This is all while I was in handcuffs. Totally unprovoked. They dragged me into this little cell with no camera. They stripped my clothes off me. It was just ridiculous.
But back to the main thing, it passed the House unanimously and then just yesterday it passed the Senate unanimously. Now we’re waiting for the governor to sign it, which it looks like he probably will do [signed June 24] and then in 90 days it will become law. All that’s doing is taking the rules and regulation and making them more in the spirit of what the people passed. Basically, this lady, Catherine Cobb, over the in DLRS, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Services, took it upon herself to write the law, which is not her position to do.
What did she do?
The people-initiated law was a voluntary registration system. If people wanted to register with the state and get a plastic, laminated ID card that verified that they were a medical marijuana patient just in case they got pulled over they could show this to the police. She made that a mandatory registration system. There’s a lot of HIPAA violation there. She’s requiring us to submit our medical history and records. This should be between you and your doctor. It was a little touchy subject for a lot of people in Maine because we’re still big fans of our civil liberties. I’m a native. It makes me proud that people stand up for their rights here more than any other place.
In the comments section of one article, someone said, “She couldn’t find illegal pot in California?”
She wasn’t a pot smoker. If you’re not in that circle, you don’t know the first place to look. People are supposed to be taking care of Kirsten and they’re out on the streets in a bad section of town looking for dope. That’s a common problem with a lot of people who do sell pot, they sell a lot of other things.
I had to have something tragic happen to me before I got off the couch and was like ‘this isn’t right.’ We have eight non-profit dispensaries in the state. Four of them haven’t opened up yet because they’re California-based. The Berkeley Patients Group came down to lobby. There were only six spots that got picked and four of those spots were Berkeley Patients Group-oriented people. They changed the name to the Northeast Patients Group but it’s still the same entity. So basically, a California company came down to Maine and I won’t say they have a monopoly but they have half of the business here and it’s a California-based company.
To tell you the truth, the California side of the issue has become more a detriment than anything else. Because everyone in Maine is like ‘oh, look at California, they have more dispensaries than they do Starbucks!’ Of course, that’s not an accurate representation. To me, having more cannabis cafes than Starbucks is a good thing, but I’m a little bit different than other people I guess. The caregivers around here, any kind of money that they make goes right back into the business or the local community. It increases the overall positive economic picture of that rural area.
Law enforcement doesn’t know how to deal with it. They haven’t had a great history of positive interaction with caregivers. They don’t want to be educated. We’ve offered to go down to a couple of different police stations and talk to the chiefs and they couldn’t be less interested about knowing what the law is. We had a copy of the law and rules and regulations, about two inches thick. We offered them a copy of that and they weren’t interested. They are getting a little bit better, from what I hear. But they’re still pulling up people’s plants. It seems that younger police are worse. They’re really not taught about any of that stuff in the police academy.
How does it grow up there?
It’s got a pretty short season. There’s really not a big library of strains that you can grow. They’ve got to be mostly Indica strains if you want to grow them outside. But inside you can grow pretty much anything. It’s Maine’s biggest cash crop by far.