Pubdate: Sat, 05 Jan 2002
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2002 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Michael O'D. Moore, Of the NEWS Staff
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


AUGUSTA -- Some lawmakers left little doubt Friday that they wouldn't buck 
the U.S. Supreme Court by recommending a bill to create a statewide 
distribution system for marijuana used for medical purposes.

Last year the Supreme Court struck down distribution efforts in California, 
even as Maine lawmakers were considering a similar system for Maine. In 
1999, Mainers overwhelmingly approved a referendum legalizing the use of 
small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes.

On Friday, members of the Health and Human Services and Judiciary 
committees pointed out that huge expenditures of time have been devoted to 
finding a mechanism to help sick people get marijuana without having to 
resort to the black market. Now, with the Supreme Court's 2000 decision, 
they said the biggest issue -- creating a large-scale distribution system 
- -- was moot.

Rep. Thomas Shields, R-Auburn, moved that the bill before the committee, 
sponsored by Sen. Anne Rand, D-Portland, be killed. Only a change in 
federal law or new medical proof that marijuana is an effective drug 
against some side effects of medical treatments would make a difference in 
the legality of such a distribution system, Shields said.

But several committee members said that while they now would vote against 
the distribution portion of the bill, they wanted to attempt to find lesser 
steps to smooth the process approved by so many Mainers at the ballot box.

"I would prefer to see us work on this a little bit," said Rep. Joseph 
Brooks, D-Winterport. The session may be busy, but there should be time to 
work out a compromise, he said.

Members of both committees overwhelmingly agreed, tabling the bill until 2 
p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, when a subcommittee will meet.

Charlie Soltan, a lawyer representing Mainers for Medical Rights, predicted 
before the work session that the bill already was dead.

After the discussion and vote, he said: "I'm pleasantly surprised."

At the next meeting, committee members will consider whether to take some 
of the steps in Rand's bill, such as establishing a registration system for 
those using medical marijuana or changes related to how many marijuana 
plants an individual legally may cultivate for medical use.

The core problem is that while the state has legalized marijuana for use by 
the sick, federal law continues to view marijuana as illegal.

Rand's original bill would have set up nonprofit distribution centers 
managed and overseen by diverse boards of community members. The centers 
would have charged patients to cover costs and would have created a 
mandatory registry system.

Although the majority opinion of the Supreme Court was that marijuana has 
no accepted medical use, proponents say it is helpful to people suffering 
from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other diseases. For instance, it 
helps curb the side effects of chemotherapy, they say.

In addition to Maine and California, six other states have legalized 
marijuana use for medical purposes.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager