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Group pushes for legal medical marijuana use

May 17, 2001

Group pushes for legal medical marijuana use



Frederick, Md.

By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Should her cancer return, Del. Louise V. Snodgrass said she would want the option of using marijuana to help ease her suffering.

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Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.

Her treatments weren't as debilitating as the treatments she watched other cancer patients endure. But it was enough to convince the conservative Republican to fight for a change in Maryland law.

Undaunted by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Snodgrass and other medical marijuana supporters rallied in downtown Frederick Wednesday morning.

Waving to rush-hour traffic at the intersection of Patrick and Market streets, the small band of state legislators and activists held signs that read, "Stop Arresting Patients for Medical Marijuana," "Vietnam Veterans Require Medical Marijuana," and "Compassionate Cannabis for Chemotherapy."

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Many passers-by honked their horns and gave thumbs-up signs.

Attempts to decriminalize marijuana for medical purposes failed in the Maryland General Assembly in the past two years.

Lead sponsor Del. Donald Murphy, R-Baltimore/Howard, said he'll try again next year.

Meanwhile, he's traveling around the state to spread his message. He organized similar rallies this week in Columbia, Md., and Silver Spring, Md.

The rallies turned out to be timely because of Monday's Supreme Court decision rejecting medical use as a defense for marijuana distribution in federal cases.

States may still legalize the medical use of marijuana, but the federal government would be free to prosecute such cases.

Despite the Supreme Court decision, cancer patients will continue to use pot to ease pain and increase appetite, rally participants said.

"They're not going to worry about the consequences," Snodgrass said.

Del. David R. Brinkley, R-Frederick, who had cancer 12 years ago, said he would break the law to help a relative in need.

"That's where the law's wrong. You do what you can to help your family take care of itself," he said.

Larry Silberman, 49, of Rockville, Md., said the side-effects from his treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma leave him unable to sleep. He smokes marijuana to help him rest.

"I told my wife I'd do time in jail easier than time under the grass," said Silberman, who wore a leather hat to cover up his head bald from chemotherapy.

Bob Sutton, 54, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., said marijuana is the only thing he's found to control chronic back pain stemming from a 1980 fall. Sutton was working as a carpenter in Baltimore when the accident happened.

"This is supposed to be the Free State," he said.

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