- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 24, 2002

ANNAPOLIS (AP) A House committee voted yesterday to reduce the penalty for Marylanders who use marijuana for medical purposes to a maximum fine of $100.
"This bill will keep cancer patients and AIDS patients out of jail," said Delegate Donald Murphy, Baltimore County Republican, chief sponsor of the bill, after it was approved 14-4 by the Judiciary Committee.
Mr. Murphy's bill set up a complex system to prohibit state prosecution of people who use marijuana for medical purposes on the recommendation of a doctor. It involved registration with the state and listed medical conditions that could be treated.
But the committee passed a simpler piece of legislation that would require judges to consider evidence that marijuana was used for medical purposes. If a judge found someone possessed marijuana out of medical necessity, the maximum penalty would be a fine of $100.
The bill will come before the House of Delegates tomorrow. If it passes the House, the bill will go to the Senate.
Billy Rogers, director of state policies for the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project, said the bill "removes the threat of prison and allows patients to use medical marijuana to treat their illnesses."
"While a judge could impose a $100 fine, it is likely most prosecutors and judges will not waste their time harassing Maryland patients if this bill becomes law," he said.
Mr. Rogers said seven states have medical marijuana laws approved by voters after referendum campaigns. Hawaii is the only state with a law passed by the legislature, he said.
People who use marijuana for medical purposes still face prosecution under federal law in those states that have eliminated state penalties.
There is disagreement in the scientific and medical communities about whether marijuana relieves nausea and reduces pressure that builds up in the eyes of people with glaucoma.

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