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Medical Marijuana Registry: Patient Protection or Privacy Invasion?

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Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
Maine's new medical marijuana law is mostly known for creating dispensaries where patients can buy the drug. Lesser known is that it also requires patients and growers to register with the state. State officials say that will keep enrollees from being charged with drug offenses. But some leading advocates are calling it an invasion of privacy. Some want to overturn the law; others are urging patients to boycott the registry when sign-ups begin in July.

"I am not going to put my name toward a database in the state of Maine, not because I have anything to hide but just because I'm not willing to do that," says Charlie Whynot, who uses medical marijuana to treat AIDS.

He is urging fellow members of the Maine Medical Marijuana Resource Center to avoid signing up on the registry. "If they want to register that's cool, and we'll back that. But if they don't, we also want to back them, in essence, if they have a doctor's recommendation and they're still legal in the state."

What Whynot is referring to is something known in legal circles as affirmative defense. Basically, it means that patients who use medical marijuana are protected if their use of the drug has been authorized by a doctor. But after the registry takes effect in January, an affirmative defense will no longer be valid.

"I hope that neither the state nor local prosecutors will harass patients who choose for privacy reasons not to register," says
That's Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. The MCLU tried to convince lawmakers to drop the registry as they worked on refining the medical marijuana law passed by voters last November.

The group is now working with activists such as Whynot to see if there might be a way to make the registry voluntary through an amendment, or some other means. "Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General's Office could proactively issue a commitment to the voluntary nature of the database and make a promise as United States Attorney General Eric Holder has done not to focus resources on prosecution of individuals who do not register," Bellows says.

State officials maintain that patient fears about privacy are unwarranted. Yes, law enforcement will have access to the registry, but only under certain circumstances says Catherine Cobb of Licensing and Regulatory Services. "Law enforcement will only be able to confirm the informations that is on a registry card, that a person is in fact a patient, is in fact a primary caregiver, is in fact a dispensary employee who lawfully is in posession of marijuana."

Cobb says that patients who do not register will not legally be able to purchase medical marijuana. Cobb says she believes the registry actually works to protect patients better than the current system.

"This new law is much more manageable in terms of knowing what you have for program and being able to easily find out that someone is a participant in the program, as opposed to charging them with a crime where you have to go to court, and then, you know, give your affirmative defense."

Some advocates say that the problems with the new medical marijuana law point to the need to liberalize marijuana laws. Don Christen of the group Maine Vocals is leading a petition drive to get the marijuana legalization on the November 2011 ballot.

"People are downright sick and tired of prohibition period when there's lots of other things law enforcment needs to put its attention to, rather than bothering poeople for smoking a plant," he says.

At the same time, Christen says he recognizes that no other state has legalized marijuana. And rather than be stuck with the current medical marijuana law, he says he will also circulate a petition that would create a new law that eliminates a mandatory registry system.

In the meantime, applications for the registry will be available online on the state's Web site in a matter of days. The state will start to issue identification cards in July.

NewsHawk: Ganjarden: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Author: Josie Huang
Contact: Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Copyright: 2010 Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Website: Medical Marijuana Registry: Patient Protection or Privacy Invasion?
Until they have Mo**hine and other patient medication registry data bases this is discrimination plain and simple! Write your legislatures an show your utter disappointment in this travesty of justice, and legislative ignorance.