Pubdate: Sat, 05 Apr 2003
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 Associated Press
Author: John Biemer, Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


A bill that would reduce criminal penalties for seriously ill people who 
smoke marijuana is headed to the governor.

The state Senate approved a medical marijuana bill on Friday by a vote of 
30-16. The legislation would set a maximum fine of $100 and no jail time 
for defendants who can convince a judge they need to smoke marijuana for 
medical reasons.

Under current state law, possession or use of marijuana can bring penalties 
of up to a year in prison or a $1,000 fine.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich has repeatedly said that he supports the concept of 
medical marijuana, but has not taken a stand on the legislation headed to 
his desk.

Backers of the legislation say smoking marijuana can ease the symptoms of 
serious illnesses such as cancer, HIV or AIDS, multiple sclerosis and 
Crohn's disease, and can help patients suffering from nausea hold down food 
and medications.

But some Republicans in Washington, including White House drug czar John P. 
Walters, have been pressuring Ehrlich to veto the measure, which they say 

a false and illegal remedy to the sick.

Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said Ehrlich "appreciates the input" from 
the Bush administration, but "there certainly is a difference in philosophy 
when it comes to medical marijuana."

States with medical marijuana laws include Hawaii, Oregon, Alaska and 
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