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State Would Distribute Confiscated Marijuana

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Mar.13, 00
Foster's Daily Democrat
Law is Meant to Help People Get Marijuana...
A bill before the Legislature would have the state distribute confiscated marijuana plants to people who are allowed to use it for medical reasons. The law is meant to help people who have trouble getting marijuana to help treat their medical conditions, a practice that Maine voters approved in November. But even the bill's sponsor doubts it will pass, as long as marijuana possession remains illegal under federal law. "The federal government really has to change its attitude about marijuana, it's got to allow research," said Sen. Anne Rand, D-Portland. The bill calls for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency to distribute the marijuana, and provides for a registry of patients allowed to use it.
Bryan Clark, 26, favors the law. He has been using marijuana to quell the nausea that began after he got the AIDS virus at age 13 from the blood clotting agent prescribed for his hemophilia. His doctor has written a letter saying Clark meets the requirements of the state law. But federal anti-marijuana laws keep Clark from getting it by prescription, and growing it at home is too expensive, he says $500 for lighting equipment and about $50 in electricity per month. The only other option is buying it illegally, he says, which defeats the purpose of the new state law. "The fear ain't over," he said. "You've got to do what you've got to do, and that's the unfortunate thing about this."
The Health and Human Services Committee planned a hearing on the bill this morning. Maine Attorney General Andrew Ketterer is forming a task force to study the question. It includes Rand, as well as three physicians and Cumberland County Sheriff Mark Dion. Dion sympathizes with Clark and supported the November ballot question, but says the new proposal raises "delicate" public policy questions, such as any liability the state might face for any harm caused by the marijuana plants it distributes. "Shall the state be engaged in growing material in order to assure safety, and then pass that on to designated individuals?" he said. The co-chairs of the task force are state Rep. Edward Povich, D-Ellsworth and chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, and James Cameron, the assistant attorney general who coordinates state drug prosecutions. It also includes the president of the Maine Sheriff's Association, which opposed the medical marijuana law, the director of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety.
The law approved in November limits medical marijuana use to those who have nausea, vomiting or wasting syndrome from AIDS; who are undergoing chemotherapy; who have glaucoma; or who have chronic seizures or muscle spasms. Patients must be under a physician's care and must discuss the use of medical marijuana with the physician. Patients may have up to an ounce-and-a-quarter of marijuana or six plants, no more than three of which may be flowering. Medical marijuana patients are not permitted to smoke marijuana in public places.

Portland, Maine (AP) Published: Monday, March 13, 2000 © 2000 Geo. J. Foster Co.