- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Supporters of medical marijuana asked a House of Delegates committee yesterday to approve a bill to reduce the legal risks to Maryland patients who smoke marijuana to relieve the symptoms of chronic illnesses.
More than one-third of the members of the House have signed on as sponsors of the medical-marijuana bill. It would prohibit the state from prosecuting people who used marijuana on the advice of their doctors.
Testimony also was heard in the House Judiciary on two other marijuana bills.
One would allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons to be raised as a defense in a criminal trial. A third would require judges to take medical use into account when sentencing people convicted of using marijuana.

Members of the Maryland Senate got their first look today at the version of the state budget approved Monday by the Budget and Taxation Committee.
Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, Baltimore Democrat and the committee chairman, told senators the committee had to grapple with a gap of more than $1 billion between expected revenues and normal growth in state spending.
Mrs. Hoffman said Gov. Parris N. Glendening's budget "did little to address this gap."
She said the committee cut spending to the point that the budget for next year is balanced and has a surplus of about $6 million.
The budget will come up again tomorrow when the Senate will vote on the changes proposed by the committee.

Republican senators will offer proposed constitutional amendments today that they say will result in a better process for drawing General Assembly districts.
One amendment would take away from the governor the responsibility for proposing new districts after every national census.
Republicans complained that the plan drafted by Mr. Glendening gave unfair treatment to minority voters and Republicans.
Several lawsuits already have been filed challenging the plan.
The second amendment would require all 141 members of the House to be elected from separate districts. In most cases, voters now choose three delegates and one senator when they go to the polls.

Legislation creating a commission to recommend changes in financing of elections in Maryland is just one step from passage in the state Senate.
The bill was approved without dissent today on a preliminary vote. A final vote could come later this week.
The commission would examine public financing of elections and other ways to reduce the influence of big campaign contributors on the electoral process.
Similar legislation has been approved by a committee in the House of Delegates.

A Prince George's County lawmaker has renewed his campaign to reduce the use of food vending machines in Maryland schools.
Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, a Democrat, asked a Senate committee yesterday to approve a bill requiring local school boards to establish stricter policies on vending machines. Mr. Pinsky wants schools to try to keep students from eating foods with little nutritional value.
Among the regulations would be a ban on sales from vending machines until after the last lunch period of the day.
Mr. Pinsky also has submitted a second bill to reduce commercialism in public schools. It would ban advertisements on school buses as well as television programs beamed into schools.

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