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As Todd McCormick sits in an Ohio jail, charged with possessing 31 pounds of marijuana, he eagerly awaits the day when he can resume giving away the drug.

McCormick and his girlfriend were arrested while driving from San Diego to Providence to start a "compassion club" for seriously ill people who use marijuana to dull their pain."When I get home this time, I'm going nuts," McCormick, 25, said from the Correction Center of Northwest Ohio in Stryker. "I'll have fields in my front yard. . . . I'm going ballistic, no holds barred. If they want to come get me, put me in jail, so be it."

McCormick estimates there are between 30 and 50 compassion clubs across the country. The 3,200-member San Francisco Cannabis Buyer's Club is believed to be the largest such group.

The clubs are organized by people who grow marijuana and then visit support groups for patients with AIDS and other diseases. They offer the drug for free or very cheaply.

McCormick, who runs the 20-member San Diego Compassionate Use Club, said members must provide photo identification and a doctor's letter describing their condition. They also must sign a statement indicating they know they are breaking the law.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says it is aware of compassion clubs but has not targeted them for enforcement.