Pubdate: Thu, 04 Mar 1999
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 1999 Associated Press
Author: Paul Queary,  Associated Press Writer


JUNEAU, Alaska - Alaska's medical marijuana law goes into effect
today,  offering a legal shield to people who smoke the weed for a
short list of  medical ailments.

Nearly 60 percent of the voters in the November election favored the
measure, which allows marijuana use for ailments including cancer,
AIDS, glaucoma, chronic pain, seizures and muscle spasms, provided the
patient has a doctor's recommendation.

The law allows patients to grow limited amounts of marijuana and
protects  doctors who recommend it.

Growing, selling or using marijuana for recreational purposes remains
illegal and marijuana is still classified with heroin and LSD under
federal  law.

However, a bill introduced in Congress on Wednesday would set aside
the federal ban on marijuana in the states that have approved its use:
Alaska,  Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Nevada.

Although the Alaska law calls for identification cards that medical
marijuana users could show to fend off arrest, the Department of
Health and Social Services is not yet accepting applications for a
registry of qualified patients.

Even without a card, the law will provide a defense if people are
arrested for using medical marijuana. Patients will be allowed to keep
1 ounce of marijuana, or grow six plants, including three flowering

"I would expect that the police would exercise some discretion, and
ask appropriate questions that would allow them to gain enough
information to determine if the person is legitimately using marijuana
for medical purpose or  just using it as an excuse," said Dean
Guaneli, the state's chief assistant attorney general.

Ned Tuthill wishes the law had come about a few years earlier. The
retired airline pilot was using marijuana to ease chronic pain caused
by a severe car  crash when a neighbor complained to authorities about
the marijuana patch on  his property in Homer.

Tuthill was placed on probation after a plea bargain that forbids him
from smoking marijuana.

"I have period of times when my pain is so severe that I just can't do
anything," said Tuthill, 48, who says other pain medications nauseate
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