Pubdate: Mon, 05 Feb 2001
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2001 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Contact:  491 Main St., PO Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402-1329


AUGUSTA (AP) - More than a year after Maine voters legalized the limited 
medical use of marijuana, a new proposal would establish a pilot program to 
distribute marijuana to Mainers who need it for medical reasons.

The bill, which still is being drafted, would create a nonprofit center to 
grow and distribute marijuana within a test county. A registry system would 
ensure that marijuana is sold only to those who are legally entitled to it.

Under existing law, Mainers with problems stemming from cancer, 
chemotherapy, AIDS or other specified conditions may possess six marijuana 
plants and 1 1/4 ounces of dried marijuana.

Supporters of the new measure say it would help Mainers who are too sick or 
too poor to grow their own marijuana, and those who can't or won't buy it 

"If it was done properly, everyone would benefit from it," said Cliff Hall, 
who suffers from a spinal-cord injury and uses marijuana to relieve painful 
muscle spasms.

"It would take the stigma away from me having to go to the black market," 
while ensuring that the quality is consistent from batch to batch, said 
Hall, who has a doctor's written recommendation that he use marijuana.

Hall, who has grown his own marijuana, said state-sanctioned distribution 
is "a very necessary part of what the public approved in the referendum."

In a report released last October, most of the 29 members of a task force 
exploring ways to improve the medical marijuana law endorsed 
state-sanctioned distribution. Many also supported creating a research 
program on the medical benefits of marijuana and allowing each legal user 
to grow enough for one other registered patient.

So far, at least, the only one of those ideas that has surfaced in the 
Legislature is the pilot distribution plan.

An early draft of the bill says the distribution center could grow 
marijuana and charge patients enough to cover costs. The center would have 
to work with the sheriff in the center's home county to set up and maintain 
a registry of eligible patients.

The bill does not specify which county would get the center. Eventually, 
the center would have to submit a report to the Legislature, which then 
would decide whether to expand the idea to other counties.

"We really haven't provided a way to [distribute marijuana] that is legal," 
so the Legislature should tackle the problem with a test program in one 
county, said Sen. Anne Rand, D-Portland, a sponsor of the bill.

"The referendum was a good step," said Elizabeth Beane of Mainers for 
Medical Rights, which promoted the referendum and supports the new law. 
"Growing your own seemed like the way to go" at the time, Beane said, but 
it has become clear since then that home growing is not practical for all 
patients who are entitled to the drug.

Opposition to state-approved distribution is sure to surface in the 

"Clearly, it presents tremendous issues," said Roy McKinney, director of 
the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and one of the dissenters on the task force.

The federal government still views marijuana as a narcotic that is easily 
abused and that has no medical benefits, McKinney said, so "the issue of 
conflict with federal law" would pose problems if the state sanctioned a 
distribution system.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D