FREDERICK, Md. - A committee to study the medicinal use marijuana will be
formed by state Republica leaders at a semiannual.convention this weekend,
a Republican leader said yesterday.

The development follows Republican Delegate Donald E. Murphy's failed
attempt in the last two General Assembly sessions to decriminalize
marijuana smoking to relieve nausea and debilitating pain.

"They're going to have a committee that will establish guidelines to look
into the issue, to inform the party so we can have an informed position on
it," said Paul Ellington., executive director of the state Republican Party.

About 300 were expected at the convention, which ends today. Medicinal
marijuana has other Republican supporters, including Frederick County
Delegates Louise Snodgrass and David Brinkley, both cancer survivors. But
some party members consider the issue a distraction from more pressing
matters, such as finding a Republican candidate for governor.

"A lot of law enforcement are against it. They just feel it's the opening
of Pandora's box," said Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson, a Republican who
represents part of Frederick and Carroll counties.

The Maryland bills were patterned after a law that has been in effect in
Oregon for two years.

Mr. Murphy, who represents parts of Baltimore and Howard counties, has
endured ridicule for his marijuana proposals in the Democrat-controlled
legislature, where some have nicknamed him "Bong Boy" and "Maryjane Murphy."

Yet he has promoted his bills with unusual fervor, even organizing a rally
in Frederick after the U.S, Supreme Court ruled unanimously last month that
there was no exception in federal law for people to use marijuana to ease
their pain from cancer, AIDS or other illnesses.

"Don Murphy has definitely stood out above the crowd in terms of just how
willing he is to champion the cause," said Chuck Thomas, spokesman for the
Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington-based group that advocates
decriminalization. The medicinal-marijuana debate transcends party politics.

The Clinton administration opposed pot prescriptions. President Bush said
as a candidate it was a state's rights issue. The Republican National
Committee has no position on medical marijuana.

The Frederick convention also will feature campaigning seminars for office
seekers, but the party does not have a 2002 gubernatorial candidate. Many,
however, hope for an announcement this summer from Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich
Jr. now that Rep. Constance A. Morella has decided not to run.

"I'm not getting any feelers from the Ehrlich camp one way or another;' Mr.
Ferguson said.

"He's playing it pretty close to the vest."

Newshawk: Robert Ryan
Pubdate: Sat, 16 Jun 2001
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2001 News World Communications, Inc
Author: David Dishneau, Associated Press