Pubdate: Sat, 07 Apr 2001
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2001 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Sharon Mack
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Hemp)


MADISON - Don Christen, the founder and leader of Maine Vocals, a 
pro-marijuana lobbying group, announced this week that his organization, in 
cooperation with the Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana, will seek 
signatures for the next year on two initiatives: the legalization of 
medical marijuana, and the relegalization of the cultivation of hemp as an 
agricultural crop.

Part of the proposal would set up marijuana outlet stores throughout the 
state, dubbed "buyers' clubs."

Although the hemp issue is before the Legislature's Agriculture Committee, 
Christen said this week that should the bill pass and be signed into law, 
the petition drive would be abandoned.

This is the third petition drive by Vocals and MCMM in as many years. 
Christen said 42,000 signatures are required to place the issue before 
voters in 2002.

"It is about time our legislators listened to the will of the people," 
Christen said. "Marijuana can be a potent and powerful medication."

Marijuana has been credited with helping those suffering from AIDS, cancer, 
epilepsy and glaucoma, among other diseases.

Christen said the marijuana initiative would increase the number of plants 
that could be possessed. A patient or designated provider, with the written 
or oral recommendation of a physician, could grow up to 99 plants or 
possess no more than 18 pounds of usable processed pot. Christen said that 
is a two-year supply.

"We went with two years because a person could be too sick the second year 
to grow it then," he said.

The designated providers would be limited to 10 patients at a time, which 
means they could grow up to 1,000 plants. Christen said the providers, 
however, could form a cooperative. "There could conceivably be huge farms," 
he said.

In addition, the initiative provides safeguards to protect any Maine 
physicians who prescribe marijuana from a backlash from the federal 
government that would affect their license to practice.

The buyers' clubs would be set up in cities of 25,000 or more people, with 
one in each county.

The hemp initiative would require the Maine Department of Agriculture to 
assist Maine farmers in procuring unsterilized seed "until farmers are able 
to get their own."

Christen explained that although other states have passed hemp legislation, 
the federal government seizes all unsterilized seeds. Christen said the 
hemp effort could save some Maine farms and provide a profitable, 
alternative crop. In Canada, hemp farmers are realizing $400 an acre profit 
and shipping more than 80 percent of their hemp to the United States.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager