HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Senate Panel Oks Marijuana Measure
Pubdate: Fri, 21 Mar 2003
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2003 The Baltimore Sun, a Times Mirror Newspaper.
Author: Stephanie Desmon, Sun Staff
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Bill Would Ease Penalty For Medicinal Use Of Drug

A measure that would lessen the penalty for sick people found with 
marijuana if they can prove they possessed it for medical reasons eked out 
a key Senate committee victory yesterday.

The bill, approved 6-5 by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, stops 
far short of legalizing marijuana for those who contend they need it, but 
it allows a judge to impose just a $100 fine if it is shown the drug is a 
medical necessity. It is similar to a bill approved this week by the House 
of Delegates.

The House passed similar legislation last year, but it failed in the Senate 
committee that gave its approval yesterday. The bill still needs approval 
from a second Senate committee, where half of its members were co-sponsors 
of the original measure.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. generally supports medical marijuana use but he 
has yet to take a formal position on this legislation.

The senator considered the swing vote yesterday was Nancy Jacobs, a 
conservative Harford County Republican, whose mother suffered from 
Parkinson's disease.

"I am not for legalizing marijuana in any way," she said, "but I do know 
that it helps people who are in the end of their life. If it would have 
helped my mother, I would have gotten it for her somehow."

At a hearing last month, senators heard from cancer patients who said the 
drug saved their lives, giving them relief that no prescription medicine 
could. They also heard from those opposed to the bill, including the 
Maryland State Medical Society, who said science has yet to prove the 
benefits of using marijuana as a medicine.

"I don't see the need to prosecute people who are suffering horribly or are 
dying," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, the committee chairman and a Montgomery 
County Democrat. "It's an effort to be humane to those in intractable pain."

Sen. Leo E. Green, a Prince George's County Democrat, is firmly against the 
bill. "It indirectly legalizes marijuana -- that's basically what it does," 
said Green, the committee's vice chairman. "It gives a defense to drug 
dealers because they will now say they're caregivers."
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