Pubdate: Wed, 03 Nov 1999
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 1999, Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: Wyatt Olson, Of the NEWS Staff


BANGOR - Maine voters said yes to the use of marijuana for medical
purposes by a wide margin Tuesday. With most of the votes counted, 62
percent of voters were in favor of legalizing pot for certain medical
conditions, while 39 percent were opposed.

Only in Aroostook and Washington counties was passage of the issue
close at 1 a.m. York County approved the question by 2-to-1.

Voters in Bangor approved the initiative 5,225 to 3,736.

"We think it's clear Maine people have taken a stronger stand for a
compassionate drug policy than has the federal government,'' said
Craig Brown, coordinator for Mainers for Medical Rights, which
spearheaded the pro-pot campaign.

He said his group looks forward to working with doctors and law
enforcement officials in the state to make the law work. It will go
into effect 30 days after the vote has been officially tallied.

Gordon Smith, executive vice president of Maine Medical Association,
said Tuesday night that he was not surprised that voters were coming
out so heavily in favor of medical marijuana because polling this fall
had consistently shown support.

The association, which opposed the question, will contact the medical
associations in other states that have approved medical marijuana to
get an idea how doctors work with patients expressing intent to use
the drug.

Because the drug remains illegal under federal law, doctors could find
themselves in an awkward situation with the Drug Enforcement Agency,
which issues prescription licenses to doctors, Smith said.

Many voters had mixed feelings about the question.

"I'm not opposed to medical marijuana,'' said David Kliewer late
Tuesday afternoon while leaving Bangor High School where he voted
against the initiative. "I'm sure there is valid clinical use for it,
but this is not the right way to do it - having laypeople vote on
medical issues. It needs to go through Food and Drug Administration
testing and clinical trials, just like morphine.''

With approval of the referendum, the state will join Alaska, Arizona,
California, Oregon and Washington - all of which legalized medical
marijuana in referendums. Nevada voters approved a constitutional
amendment for medical marijuana in 1998, but must approve it again in
2000 for it to go into effect.

Patients and doctors will be able to freely discuss the risks and
benefits of medical marijuana. Legally designated caregivers for
patients using marijuana medicinally will not be committing a crime in
assisting patients in using the drug.

In order to use marijuana legally, a patient will have to be diagnosed
by a physician as suffering from one of the following conditions:

- - Persistent nausea, vomiting, wasting syndrome or loss of appetite as
a result of AIDS or chemotherapy for cancer;

- - Glaucoma;

- - Seizures associated with a chronic, debilitating disease, such as
epilepsy; or

- - Persistent muscle spasms associated with a chronic disease, such as
multiple sclerosis.

The patient also must be under the continuing care of a doctor.
Doctors will not actually prescribe marijuana - patients must buy or
grow the drug.

The law limits the amount a medical patient can legally possess to no
more than 1o ounces of harvested marijuana and six marijuana plants,
of which no more than three can be mature, flowering plants.

People under age 18 will need written consent from a parent or legal
guardian to use medical marijuana.

While passage of the referendum means state law enforcement agencies
will not prosecute medicinal use of marijuana, federal officials
could. After similar referenda were passed last year in other states,
the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy issued a
statement that read in part, "The results of these referenda in no way
alter the status of marijuana under federal law.''
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