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Proponents of a bill decriminalizing the medical use of marijuana had
their hopes dashed Friday when the Senate Judicial Proceedings
Committee killed the bill.

But hope for the bill remains in the House, where the Judiciary
Committee put off voting on the measure Friday evening. Del. Donald
Murphy, D-Baltimore County, introduced the medical marijuana bill last
year, but it never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee. This
year, Sen. Ulysses Currie, D-25th-Capitol Heights, introduced an
identical bill in the Senate.

``It was evident they didn't want this bill, and they didn't give it
the time it deserved,'' said Murphy of the Senate panel. ``It will be
back, and if it isn't me, it will be one of the other 28

Murphy originally asked committee members to hold the bill, which was
defeated with a 7-3 vote. He said he is considering withdrawing it and
reintroducing it next year.

``I don't want people to get in the habit of voting against it,'' said
Murphy. ``It won't get a good vote [in the House].''

Murphy said he was surprised when the House committee delayed its vote
on the bill.

While committee members agreed the bill was worthy of debate, they
said it has too many loopholes.

``Even the supporters of this bill said it needs to be worked on,''
said Sen. Leo Green, D-23rd-Bowie, who voted against the bill. ``I was
sorry to hear there were judges who were throwing people in jail for
it. That's the sad part.''

In Wednesday's hearing, Sen. Timothy Ferguson, R-Carroll, said the
bill protects the buyer and not the dealer.

``It's damned if you do and damned if you don't,'' said Ferguson, who
didn't attend the voting session. ``You can't protect one side and not
the other and have a consistent policy.''

In Maryland, a person who uses marijuana to treat ailments, such as
nausea, loss of appetite, pain relief and reduction of muscle spasms
with a doctor's approval can be sent to prison and fined $1,000.

The bill allows medical pot users or their caregivers to possess seven
plants and three ounces of usable marijuana without facing criminal
penalties. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene would be
responsible for issuing identification cards to qualifying patients.

``It's a get-out-of-jail-free card for cancer patients,'' Murphy said.
``What is so hard about that?''

Sens. Jennie Forehand, D-Montgomery, Clarence Mitchell, D-Baltimore,
and Perry Sfikas, D-Baltimore, voted for a favorable committee report.

``I wouldn't be in favor of this bill except for a neighbor who died
[of cancer] last year,'' Forehand said. ``She had morphine, but it
just knocked her out. If I was in that position, I might go out and
[get marijuana] illegally, and I don't want to have to do that.''

Eight states have medical marijuana laws: Alaska, Arizona, California,
Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington. Murphy is confident
that Maryland will eventually follow suit.

``Like so many other things, we don't often see the necessity after
the first year,'' said Murphy. ``As more and more people become
affected and see the need for the use of medical marijuana, more and
more legislators will understand it as well.''

Newshawk: Cannabis News - marijuana, hemp, and cannabis news
Pubdate: Mon, 05 Mar 2001
Source: Prince George's Journal (MD)
Copyright: 2001 The Journal Newspapers
Contact: pgedit@jrnl.com
Website: http://cold.jrnl.com/cfdocs/new/pg/
Author: Megan Scott, Capital News Service
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