Pubdate: Thu, 26 Apr 2001
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2001 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Joseph L. Rogers
Note: Joseph L. Rogers is the chief of police in Hampden.


In 1999, a citizen's initiative on medical marijuana was passed by the 
voters of Maine. Once enacted it allowed qualifying individuals suffering 
from a number of afflictions (cancer, glaucoma, HIV, to name a few) to 
grow, possess and use marijuana to help address the discomfort associated 
with the disease and/or treatment of the disease.

The law provided for the qualifying individual or the caregiver for the 
qualifying individual to possess up to six marijuana plants, three mature 
and three immature plants. Also, the caregiver could be the caregiver for a 
number of qualifying individuals and could legally possess the 
corresponding number of marijuana plants.

Without debating the public policy benefits or pitfalls of medical 
marijuana since the passage of the citizen's initiative made such a debate 
moot, the conundrum is the distribution of the product. How do qualifying 
individuals obtain the product? What oversight is appropriate? Should there 
be any quality control? How can law enforcement continue their drug 
enforcement activities without infringing upon qualifying individuals' 
ability to possess marijuana?

A task force was formed more than a year ago to address the problem of 
distribution of medical marijuana. The group consisted of representatives 
of all interested factions in the medical marijuana debate: legislators, 
attorneys, law enforcement, advocates for medical marijuana and qualifying 
individuals. The task force was unable to reach consensus and disbanded.

The distribution question needs to be resolved. The needs and well-being of 
qualified individuals and the needs of law enforcement in carrying out 
their mission to protect everyone within the state of Maine must be considered.

Marijuana distribution centers have been mentioned as a possible solution 
and have been utilized in California. There is proposed legislation in 
Augusta that would allow distribution centers to operate in Maine. The 
alternative would be individual cultivation of marijuana that could allow 
hundreds of people to grow marijuana.

Marijuana distribution centers would limit the number of outlets where 
qualified individuals could obtain the product. Limiting the number of 
outlets would make oversight much more effective and hopefully would limit 
opportunities for nonqualified people to obtain marijuana under the medical 

Users of medical marijuana would have a readily available source if the 
need arose to utilize the product. The product itself could be standardized 
and more uniform with a limited number of growers providing the product.

State oversight of the medical marijuana distribution and cultivation 
process makes much more sense than allowing qualified individuals or 
caregivers to grow and distribute medical marijuana. Every other drug has 
state and/or federal oversight to some degree and so it should be with 
medical marijuana.

One stumbling block in the state taking this position is the possibility of 
jeopardizing federal funding of our drug enforcement, education and 
treatment efforts. California, to date, has not forfeited any federal 
funding despite the fact that distribution centers are currently in operation.

Advocating state of Maine oversight of medical marijuana distribution 
centers is not an abdication of our role in the enfor cement of drug laws. 
Federal funding is an important revenue source for carrying out drug 
enforcement and that funding must remain intact so that we may carry 
forward this mission.

Medical marijuana is legal in Maine. We must decide what is the most 
efficient and effective way to control medical marijuana and have it 
distributed only to those who are legally entitled to obtain the substance.
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