HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Proponents Find An Unlikely Ally Of Marijuana Bill
Pubdate: Thu, 01 Mar 2001
Source: Frederick News Post (MD)
Copyright: 2001 Great Southern Printing and Manufacturing Company
Address: 200 East Patrick Street, PO Box 578, Frederick, MD 21705-0578
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Author: Douglas Tallman
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal)

PROPONENTS FIND AN UNLIKELY ALLY OF MARIJUANA BILL

ANNAPOLIS -- Proponents of a bill that would allow terminally ill patients 
to smoke marijuana to relieve pain and nausea might have found an ally in 
an unlikely source: ardent opponent Sen. Walter Baker.

The colorful and irascible chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings 
Committee on Wednesday chided his committee members for wasting time by 
questioning supporters of a medical marijuana bill.

"Members of the committee, this bill is not going anywhere. I wish you'd 
quit asking the questions and let the witnesses put on their show," he said 
after committee members questioned the finer points of the bill with witnesses.

"I think the good news here today is his behavior marginalized his own 
position because he came off as insensitive to patients and their 
families," said Robert Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy 
Project.

Mr. Baker's antics angered Delegate Donald Murphy, a conservative 
Republican who is sponsoring the same bill in the House of Delegates.

"I think that will have people who were on the fence go with us because of 
that," he said.

The bill would allow patients suffering from AIDS, cancer, multiple 
sclerosis and other debilitating diseases to grow, own and smoke marijuana 
so long as they had their doctor's approval.

A similar measure last year failed to emerge from the House Judiciary 
Committee.

The bill hearing drew testimony from 20 supporters, some of whom described 
losing their appetite because of the disease or because the treatment was 
so harsh.

At one point in the hearing, Mr. Baker quipped, "Medical marijuana. On the 
street, they call it pot."

Sen. Perry Sfikas, D-Baltimore County, replied the bill had an uphill 
fight, but he said he wanted to learn what the witnesses had to say.

"Ask a question if you want," Mr. Baker said, "but don't make a speech."

Outside the hearing room, Mr. Murphy was fuming.

"It's bad enough that politicians think they know better than doctors, but 
I can't believe they think they're God," he said.

Mr. Murphy is a conservative Republican who was a friend of Darrell Putman, 
a Woodbine man who ran a horse and carriage service in downtown Frederick.

Mr. Putman, an anti-drug Vietnam veteran, contracted Hodgkin's lymphoma, 
which left him weak. His doctor recommended he use marijuana to regain his 
appetite, said his wife, Shaleen Putman.

Although it gave him the strength to help out with the family business, he 
was afraid of losing his home, business and family if he were arrested with 
marijuana, Ms. Putman said.

The drug added four months to his life, she said.

The bill has been named the Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act in his honor.

Among the sponsors of the House bill are Delegates David Brinkley and 
Louise Snodgrass, both Frederick County Republicans and both cancer survivors.

The hearing drew only a few opponents. Beverly Preston of Linthicum, a 
retired pharmacist, noted the bill does not require documentation that 
patients have tried other drugs before turning to marijuana.

Doug Stiegler of the Family Protection Lobby said there was no way to 
control the marijuana reaching only the people who need the drug.
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