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Medical marijuana legislation faced a crucial test Wednesday when
supporters stood before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, the
conservative panel that killed a similar measure last year.

Two Republican delegates - David Brinkley of Frederick County and Donald
Murphy of Baltimore County - asked the committee to make a distinction
between the war on drugs and the benefit terminally ill people would get
from smoking marijuana.

"There's no reason, in our zeal to cleanse our streets ... a patient should
be subjected to the harsh penalties our courts give," said Mr. Brinkley, a
cancer survivor.

Originally, the bill would have legalized marijuana use for cancer and AIDS
patients who have a recommendation from their doctor.

Although House Judiciary Committee members seemed poised to pass that bill,
Chairman Joseph Vallario insisted the bill be amended to keep marijuana
possession a crime. At trial, a defendant could try to prove medical
necessity and if so, face a maximum penalty of a $100 fine.

"It eliminates fear of jail. It eliminates one more thing for people to
worry about at a very critical time that could be the balance of their
life," Mr. Murphy told the senators.

For three years, Mr. Murphy has championed the legislation in an effort to
honor Darrell Putman, a friend who reluctantly turned to marijuana to
counteract the nausea and loss of appetite that comes from chemotherapy.

Mr. Putman used the drug fearing that he would get caught and lose his
business, so he asked Mr. Murphy to sponsor legislation decriminalizing
marijuana use for the terminally ill.

Mr. Murphy thinks he almost has enough votes to get the bill out of
Judicial Proceedings and onto the Senate floor. A committee vote could come

Among the swing votes is undecided Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester,
another cancer survivor. "Being a cancer survivor gives you a different
outlook on issues like this," he said.

The committee received two letters from opponents of the bill. Carolyn
Burns of Silver Spring questioned the message it sends to youth who are
confronted by drug use in schools. And Joyce Nalepka, president of
Drug-Free Kids: America's Challenge, compiled comments from a number of
sources critical of the Murphy bill and others like it.

Pubdate: Thu, 04 Apr 2002
Source: Frederick News Post (MD)
Webpage: http://www.fredericknewspost.com/display.cfm?storyid=19417
Website: fredericknewspost.com | Frederick County Maryland Daily Newspaper
Feedback: www.fredericknewspost.com/contact/contactfinalnew.cfm?contact=letters
Address: 200 East Patrick Street, PO Box 578, Frederick, MD 21705-0578
Copyright: 2002 Great Southern Printing and Manufacturing Company
Fax: 301-662-8299
Author: Douglas Tallman
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