Pubdate: Fri, 18 May 2001
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2001 News World Communications, Inc.
Author:  Matthew Cella, The Washington Times
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


A Conservative Republican Delegate From Maryland Who Has Become An Unlikely 
Ally To Medicinal Marijuana Advocates Took His Cause To The People Last 
Night In A Rally In Silver Spring, Md.

Donald E. Murphy, who represents parts of Baltimore and Howard counties, 
stood with about a dozen others during the afternoon rush hour waving to 
cars as they passed the busy intersection of Colesville Road and Georgia 

"Those who understand what we're doing seem to be pretty supportive," Mr. 
Murphy said, as motorists honked their horns in solidarity.

The rally last night was the third in a series Mr. Murphy has been holding 
across the state to draw attention to the issue. The first was held Tuesday 
morning in Columbia, and a second was held yesterday in Frederick. The 
series has been so well received, Mr. Murphy said, he is planning a fourth 
for Harford County.

The lawmaker first became involved with the issue in October of 1999 after 
meeting Darrell Putman, owner of a Howard County horse farm and a retired 
lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. Mr. Putman suffered from 
non-Hodgkins lymphoma and lost 40 pounds during chemotherapy before a 
friend suggested he try marijuana.

"A guy like Darrell Putman didn't use marijuana soon enough," Mr. Murphy 
said. "He didn't use it for fear of the legal process."

Mr. Putman died in December of 1999.

For the past two years, Mr. Murphy has introduced the "Darrell Putman 
Compassionate Use Act." Under the measure, the state health department 
would authorize patients to use marijuana medicinally and issue 
identification cards that would protect them from arrest. Health department 
certification also would allow a patient to cultivate up to seven plants 
and prepare the marijuana for use.

Both bills died in committee.

"When I started this, people said, 'Man, you're history,'" Mr. Murphy said. 
"I have a strong record of voting for anti-drug legislation, so it's ironic 
that here I am."

Mr. Murphy said he has seen an increase in support. He cited polls showing 
that 70 percent of people in Maryland support his initiative, compared with 
only 30 percent who believe in decriminalization.

This year, the bill had 28 co-sponsors, 20 Democrats and eight other 

Delegate Dana Dembrow was one of the sponsors, and he attended the rally 
last night because it was "the right thing to do."

He said one reason Mr. Murphy has been able to survive politically while 
advocating such a controversial position is because he is a Republican.

"I think, politically speaking, it's hard to tag a conservative Republican 
with being soft on crime," said Mr. Dembrow, Montgomery Democrat.

Larry Silberman, a carpenter before he developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma, 
also attended the rally. Mr. Silberman, 49, has been on chemotherapy for 
three months and started taking marijuana three weeks ago to ease some of 
the side effects, which include sleeplessness and nausea.

"What is wrong with people who are suffering from terminal cancer having 
some dignity in the last days of their lives?" Mr. Murphy agrees. He 
watched his father die of cancer five years ago.

"My dad was so messed up on morphine that we couldn't bring our kids to see 
him and it was scary," he said. "Now if that's OK with the government, it's 
not with me."

The Supreme Court ruled this week that "marijuana clubs" may not invoke a 
patient's illness as a defense from federal prosecution, but disagreed over 
whether sick patients themselves can avoid arrest by claiming they need 
pot. Mr. Murphy said his rallies are not in response to the court's decision.

Mr. Murphy said he's spent his career fighting for less-intrusive 
government, and that's what this issue is about. And the more the 
legislators face their own illnesses and those of loved ones, the more 
support he envisions getting.

"This is going to pass one way or another," he said. "If everybody who has 
a story to tell tells it, that's going to be 141 votes."
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager