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Panel split as final distribution report issued

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AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A report issued Wednesday suggesting ways to
distribute marijuana to sick patients in Maine borrows schemes from
three Pacific Coast states and proposes a statewide cooperative to
sell the drug to patients.

The cooperative would be the first of its kind in the nation,
according to the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., which
applauded the idea.

But members of Maine's Task Force on Medical Marijuana gave less-than-
solid support as some said it lacked depth and substance and decided
to issue their own version.

"I've just had one day to look at this. It's not enough time," said
member Bryan Clark of Portland, who has AIDS caused by hemophilia and
has a medical recommendation to use marijuana.

Maine voters last November approved a referendum proposal to legalize
marijuana for certain medicinal uses, for example, those who have
AIDS, are undergoing chemotherapy and who have glaucoma.

The Legislature would have to authorize final recommendations of the
28-member task force on how the drug should be handed out to those
allowed to use it.

The report endorsed by the group's majority calls for a voluntary
patient and caregiver registry like Washington and Oregon have.
It would create a distribution system allowing eligible patients
to grow small extra quantities of marijuana to share with one other
patient each.

It also calls for a single, nonprofit center to sell marijuana
to registered patients, similar to locally approved marijuana
cooperatives in California.

Maine would take "a bold step" by becoming the first state to
officially sanction a distribution center, said the Marijuana Policy
Project, which lobbies at the federal level to ease marijuana laws.

Because federal drug laws are at odds with Maine's new policy,
it is unclear whether the federal government would allow a state
distribution center to operate.

The task force report also calls for a state-sponsored clinical
research program, similar to one in California, that would study the
active ingredients in marijuana The proposal would allow research on
smoked marijuana, but "preference would be given to non-smoked methods
of ingesting the active ingredients," the report says.

Some members of the task force were dissatisfied with the report,
saying it should include a more complete record of members'
discussions and details of how its recommendations would be
carried out.

"The process is half-baked," said Nat Hussy, a member.

Elizabeth Beane, director of Mainers for Medical Rights, said her
group supports the idea of having a state distribution center, which
would be run as a pilot project.

But Beane's group, which led Maine's medical marijuana initiative
campaign, is uneasy with having a registry and a patient-to-patient
system of handing out the drug.

Beane said her group has no problem with further marijuana research,
but does not know how it would happen because there is no state-run
medical school or program in place to do the research.

A task force co-chairman, state Rep. Edward Povich, said the process
was open and invited diverse views, but he was reluctant to extend its

"At some point, we have to end the job," said Povich. The Ellsworth
Democrat gave the critics three weeks to issue their own report.

Attorney General Andrew Ketterer said the panel deserves credit for
working toward a consensus, but that can't always be accomplished.

"I think the important thing is to get the information to the
Legislature," he said.