|Maryland Passes Medical Marijuana Bill
22 May 2003 - by Bruce Mirken
The passage of the Marijuana Policy Project's medical marijuana bill in Maryland yesterday is receiving national news coverage. Today, the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, and USA Today all ran stories.
An Associated Press wire story -- which was likely published in hundreds of local newspapers today -- prominently features MPP. The AP article, available on-line at http://www.mpp.org/MD/news_4235.html begins as follows:
Refusing to bend to pressure from the Bush administration, Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich signed a bill Thursday that reduces criminal penalties for seriously ill people who smoke marijuana.
Ehrlich is the first GOP governor to sign a bill protecting medical marijuana patients from jail, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. The Bush administration had pressed him to veto the measure.
"Governor Ehrlich's courageous action in the face of a hostile White House shows that our campaign to protect medical marijuana patients is truly nonpartisan," said executive director Robert Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington.
"These are people who are suffering. They're dying. It will help those people," said Delegate Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, a sponsor of the bill and an emergency room doctor at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore.
The front page of today's The Sun in Baltimore showed a full-color photo of Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) taken immediately before he signed the medical marijuana bill into law. Sitting to the left is Sen. President Mike Miller (D), a strong supporter of medical marijuana, and standing behind Ehrlich and Miller are six medical marijuana supporters, including MPP's Rob Kampia and Larry Sandell. Please see http://www.mpp.org/MD/news_4228.html for the full story.
In response to the White House drug czar's obsessive war on medical marijuana patients, The Sun also published a stinging editorial entitled "Propaganda czar." For the newspaper's opinion on medical marijuana, please see http://www.mpp.org/MD/news_4232.html.
On the front page of today's Washington Post, an article entitled "Ehrlich Signs Marijuana Bill" -- available on-line at http://www.mpp.org/MD/news_4229.html -- reads, in part, as follows:
Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday became the nation's first Republican governor to sign into law a measure that relaxes criminal punishment for seriously ill people who use marijuana to relieve pain and other symptoms.
"These are not easy issues, not easy bills," Ehrlich said of the measures he has signed and vetoed over the past two days.
He was particularly firm in his support for the marijuana measure. It does not legalize the drug but provides that seriously ill people caught using marijuana for medical purposes cannot be jailed or be fined more than $100. The White House and some conservative supporters urged the governor to reject the bill, but Ehrlich cited his long-time support for the issue.
"If you look at my views over the years, there are clearly two wings of the party on social issues," he said. "One is more conservative, and one is more libertarian. I belong to the latter, and I always have."
Although he had declined for weeks to say whether he would sign the medical marijuana bill, Ehrlich had supported such measures in principle during his eight years in Congress and during last year's gubernatorial race.
"I don't agree with him on that philosophy, but I wasn't surprised," said Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stolzfus (R-Somerset), who argued vehemently against the bill. "The Republican Party is maturing. Most people on the conservative side realize we're not getting everything we want, but we're satisfied."
Also in The Washington Post today, the front page of the Metro section carried this story: "A Medical Marijuana Break: Use Will Remain Illegal, but Bill Signed by Ehrlich Cuts Patients' Penalties." Please see http://www.mpp.org/MD/news_4230.html for the story.
MPP's lobbying campaign in Maryland -- which spanned the 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 legislative sessions -- would not have been possible without the donations of MPP members everywhere, as well as the strong grassroots support of our members in Maryland. Thanks to everyone who made this victory possible.