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By one vote, a Senate panel killed a medical marijuana measure Friday,
causing a rift between the General Assembly's crime committees that
could threaten other bills as the legislative session nears its end
for 2002.

The House Judiciary Committee had planned a Friday evening session to
complete work on sexual predator bills from Sen. Timothy Ferguson,
R-Frederick/Carroll, but that was postponed after the Judicial
Proceedings Committee vote.

Meanwhile, Judicial Proceedings chose Friday to postpone voting on
sexual predator legislation from Delegate Sue Hecht,

Sen. Clarence Mitchell, D-Baltimore, asked for the delay because of
Judiciary's failure to act on the Ferguson measure.

"It doesn't seem to have the same fluid nature that it does over
here," Mr. Mitchell said.

Ms. Hecht expressed worry over the bickering.

"I think that they're playing with the issue of sexual predators, and
that is so disturbing to me," she said. "It could be victim of
horseplay between the two chambers, of which I'm not a part."

The medical marijuana measure would allow the terminally ill to defend
themselves from drug possession charges by saying they have a medical
necessity to use it. If they can prove that claim, they would face no
greater penalty than a $100 fine.

After three years of struggling through the General Assembly, the
bill, HB 1222, passed the House of Delegates 80-56 on March 24.

Once reaching the Senate, Mr. Ferguson told the bill's chief advocate,
Baltimore County Republican Delegate Donald Murphy, that he would
"shepherd" the bill through his committee, Judicial Proceedings, in
exchange for support for his bills in Judiciary.

But shepherding the medical marijuana bill didn't mean he would vote
for it.

"At no time did I tell him I would vote for the bill," Mr. Ferguson

He was part of the majority in a 6-to-5 vote to kill the bill. Mr.
Murphy remembers Mr. Ferguson's promise differently.

"Tim Ferguson failed to be truthful with me about HB 1222. It makes me
wonder whether I can trust everything he said about" his bill, Mr.
Murphy said.

Mr. Ferguson's bill would allow judges to send repeat child rapists to
life in prison without chance of parole. The Hecht bill before
Judicial Proceedings is similar.

"I hope Senator Ferguson will help me, as he promised and bring this
to a vote," Ms. Hecht said.

Mr. Murphy wondered whether the Ferguson legislation passed the Senate
because of its need or because of the relationships Mr. Ferguson has

"If a bill can be passed for a quid pro quo, a bill can be killed for
a quid pro quo," Mr. Murphy said.

Mr. Ferguson said he couldn't support the marijuana bill because
federal law still makes possession a crime, and doctors wouldn't be
able to prescribe it.

"If we let doctors prescribe outside the pharmaceutical protocols,
what's next?" he said.

"That's an argument brought out of the blue. It's false and
convenient," said Delegate David Brinkley, R-Frederick, a cancer
survivor who was one of the marijuana bill's co-sponsors.

"I think it's pretty pathetic."

The medical marijuana supporters on Judicial Proceedings included some
of the panel's most liberal members - Clarence Mitchell, Ralph Hughes
and Perry Sfikas of Baltimore and Jennie Forehand of Montgomery County
- - along with one of its most conservative, Sen. Richard Colburn,

Mr. Colburn said his own prostate surgery had a role in his

"It seemed like a good compromise," he said.

Pubdate: Sat, 06 Apr 2002
Source: Frederick News Post (MD)
Webpage: http://www.fredericknewspost.com/display.cfm?storyid=19465
Copyright: 2002 Great Southern Printing and Manufacturing Company
Website: fredericknewspost.com | Frederick County Maryland Daily Newspaper
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