Pubdate: Fri, 19 Apr 2002
Source: Montgomery Journal (MD)
Copyright: 2002 The Journal Newspapers
Author: Eric E. Sterling


The General Assembly has adjourned. Sadly there is one piece of unfinished 
business that leaves a small number of Marylanders with dashed hopes. Those 
are the uncounted Free Staters who suffer from cancer, multiple sclerosis, 
Crohn's disease or AIDS who need marijuana to relieve pain, vomiting or 

Everyone knows how dreaded cancer chemotherapy is - bouts of intense 
vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue. For many, there is no relief provided by 
the legal drugs. For some of these patients the only relief they get is 
from the illegal use of marijuana.

The voters understand this: In polls, they overwhelmingly support allowing 
medical patients to use marijuana under their doctors' supervision. Del. 
Don Murphy, R-Catonsville, demonstrated great courage and persistence in 
facing down enormous ridicule from delegates and senators to advocate a 
bill that would protect such medical patients from prosecution.

His bill had 59 co-sponsors but needed to be amended to get out of the 
Judiciary Committee. There was great hope when the House of Delegates 
passed a bill, 80-56.

The bill would have permitted a marijuana-using medical patient, if he were 
arrested, to offer evidence for the consideration of the court that the 
possession was due to a medical necessity. If the court found such evidence 
credible, the court would still be able to impose a punishment for breaking 
the law, by imposing a maximum fine of $100.

This revised bill addressed a major concern of delegates that changing 
Maryland law might ``seduce" Maryland residents into believing medical use 
of marijuana was legal, thus leaving them open to federal prosecution.

But the bill was killed by a single vote in the Senate Committee on 
Judicial Proceedings.

Every parent and teacher wants drug-free schools, but keeping marijuana 
legally unavailable to patients has not contributed to any success in this 
regard. We all want drug-free drivers, but again, keeping bona fide medical 
patients who use marijuana in the criminal justice system doesn't protect 


Chevy Chase
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