Marijuana bills move through General Assembly
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 14:29

One bill passes House; another passes Senate

by Ben Boehl

    Voters in Colorado and Washington made history in the last election, as they became the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana use.
    While Maryland might be far away from completely legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, two bills touching the issue passed the House of Delegates and another passed the state Senate.
    First, the Senate passed SB 297, a bill that would reduce the penalty for use or possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana.
    The bill passed 30-16, with 6th District Sen. Norman Stone voting against the bill.

    “I believe that marijuana is a getaway drug,” Stone said, who is also a defense attorney.
    “When I had a client on drugs, they said they started out on marijuana.”
    In the House, HB 1101, entitled “Academic Medical Centers – Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission,” easily passed the House by a 108-28 vote.
    The bill would allow selected medical facilities to use marijuana for patients with illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.
    Del. Joesph “Sonny” Minnick voted in favor of the bill.
    “Sometimes, there is no other alternative for people with those illnesses,”  Minnick explained.
    Del. Michael Weir Jr. also voted for the bill, but did not return phone calls seeking comment.     
    On the other hand, Del. John Olszewski Jr., voted against the bill.
    He told The Eagle that he is sensitive to the needs of those people with illnesses, but voted against the bill because the federal government could still charge Marylanders who use it even for medical purposes.
    “I was torn because of the federal law. This would put state law in conflict with federal law,” Olszewski said. “Individuals could still be fined or put in jail.”
    The bill now goes to the Senate.
    A similar bill was passed by the House of Delegates last year, but it was defeated later in the Senate. Minnick said he has no idea if the bill will pass the Senate this year.
    Olszewski thinks the medical marijuana bill will pass in the Senate this time.
    Stone said he considered voting for the medical marijuana bill, but decided to vote against it.
    “I think there is reason because of chemotherapy. It does relieve some of the pain, but I’ll voted against it to remain consistent (with his “no” vote on the reducing the penalty for marijuana bill),” Stone explained.
    Olszewski is more sympathetic to SB 297 (reducing the penalty for use or possession of marijuana) because he believes the bill is more in compliance with the federal regulations than the medical marijuana bill.
    “Reducing penalties is a more consistent way of not going after all our citizens,” Olszewski explained.
    “I have to look at it, but I will probably (vote for it).”
    Minnick did not state if he would vote for or against SB 297 until he reads more information on the subject.
    “I have to look at the bill before I can comment,” Minnick said.    
    There was another bill introduced that was similar to the Colorado and Washington laws legalizing recreational marijuana.
    Del. Curt Anderson of Baltimore City introduced HB 1453, which would have not only taken away all criminal violations for the use, possession and sale of marijuana, but would have regulated and taxed marijuana. That bill never got out of committee.