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Hypochondriacs may benefit from marijuana bill

May 29, 2003|By TIM ROWLAND

Gee, I don't know what it is, but I'm feeling a little blind this morning - someone want to hand me a bong?

Now that Gov. Robert Ehrlich has signed the medical marijuana bill, you have to wonder if the state of Maryland is about to suffer an extreme and mysterious increase in the instances of glaucoma.

I suffer from the gout on occasion, perhaps I can visit my friendly, neighborhood physician and parlay it into a little weed.

Speaking of smoking something, I hope you have been keeping up with our Washington County Legislative Delegation Alumni Association.

You may recall that slot machines were something of an issue in the last session of the General Assembly. Ehrlich pitched the idea, the lawmakers pitched the pitch and the governor pitched a fit.

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Enter one Joseph P. Bartlett (R-Planet Mars), who as a Republican member of the House taxation committee, was expected to provide Ehrlich with a crucial vote to bring the issue to the floor of the House.

Well, long story short, he didn't.

Now here's where the stories diverge. Ehrlich told his fellow Republicans he would overlook a vote against slots, but only if they had grave "moral and religious" reservations.

God sternly frowns on slot machines - it's in the Bible, somewhere in the back, I think. So obviously, Ehrlich could not in good conscience allow any lawmakers to fry for all eternity just for some committee vote.

Well, when the roll was called - not up yonder, but in Ways and Means - there was Bartlett siding against his governor. Now, any Republican with any sense could easily call "religion" and emerge unscathed.

There's no indication Ehrlich performed any background checks: "Yes, Del. Eazebribe, you're "religious," but it says here you have six children out of wedlock and live in a tavern."

"But, uh, I'm a Unitarian."

Apparently though, Bartlett had grave concerns less about religion than about his own political re-election chances. Which is almost the same, but not quite (Or, give him credit, maybe he was just plain voting his conscience, if anyone does that anymore).

At least he didn't get religion to Ehrlich's satisfaction. Administration spokesman Paul Schurick said the delegate no longer is welcome in the Ehrlich administration, and could face further isolation. Asked by a Frederick reporter about Joe Bartlett's status, Schurick said "Joe who?" Later he added he hoped the message to Bartlett "wasn't too subtle."

Um. Paul? I don't know how well you know Joe Bartlett, but let's just say cognitive analysis is not a strength. You may want to rephrase your displeasure in the form of a knock-knock joke.

The governor has threatened to veto any legislation Bartlett may happen to get passed through the legislature, although that is such a longshot it hardly ranks as a threat. When he was in our delegation, remember, Bartlett made Alex Mooney look like Sam Rayburn.

But at some point, the Nestle Quik must have triggered the right mechanism, because the young Bartlett frantically went panting to the governor and anyone else who would listen, telling them that he is religious, he has always been religious and he didn't vote for slots because he was religious.

Bartlett says prior to the vote he chatted up his God-fearing ways with House Minority Leader Al Redmer, Minority Whip Ken Schisler, Budget Management Secretary Chip DiPaula, Veterans Affairs Secretary Tim Hutchins and Ways and Means chairwoman Sheila Hixon.

Surely one of these esteemed leaders could be counted upon to mention to the governor that Joey Bartlett had a note from his Father, couldn't they?

Bartlett wrote a simpering note to Ehrlich, plaintively saying, "Governor, I know you are not vindictive and I do not believe you were directly involved in this misunderstanding."

Oh come on, Joe, where are your (nonreligious word deleted here - ed.)

If it were me I would have added one more little passive-aggressive line: "Please forgive me, governor. I promise I'll never vote my conscience again."

But then I always was a troublemaker.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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