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Medical marijuana supporters hopeful

April 05, 2002|BY LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Supporters of a medical marijuana initiative tried Wednesday to win over the most conservative committee in the Maryland General Assembly.

Reaction from one Republican committee member after the hearing suggested their arguments might have struck a chord.

Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Eastern Shore, who sits on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said he hadn't decided how he would vote on legislation that would remove the threat of jail time for people with debilitating illnesses who use marijuana for relief.

But Colburn said his own bout with prostate cancer has him seriously thinking about the bill.

"Being a cancer survivor, you obviously have a different outlook on issues like this," said Colburn, who voted against a similar bill two years ago that would have decriminalized the medical use of marijuana.

Marijuana for medical use would still be a crime under this year's bill, which has passed the House of Delegates. But the maximum punishment would be a $100 fine.

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Del. Donald Murphy, R-Baltimore/Howard, said the legislation is very important to the 24,000 Marylanders who will be diagnosed with cancer this year and the 10,000 of those for whom it will be a death sentence.

"It eliminates the fear of jail. It eliminates one less thing to worry about in what may be a very short time period," he said.

As the legislative session draws to a close Monday, it's possible the measure won't come up for a vote. Committee Chairman Sen. Walter Baker, D-Eastern Shore, has been known to put bills in his committee drawer, and they've never been seen again.

Baker was not present for the hearing.

The bill's sponsor, Del. Donald Murphy, R-Baltimore/Howard, was pulling out all the stops to try to get the legislation passed. He's introduced bills before, but none has gotten this far. He said he doesn't plan to run for re-election.

"I like to think we're like the Jamaican bobsled team. People are cheering for us if nothing else," Murphy said.

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