Volume XI, Issue 15 ~ April 10-16, 2003

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Homeland Security Part III:
Governor, Sign the Medical Marijuana Law

It’s hard to find much encouraging out of this General Assembly, which will be recalled for its non-stop squabbling over gambling.

One exception was the approval last week of legislation to dramatically reduce fines for people arrested for using marijuana for medical reasons.

There are many reasons why Gov. Robert Ehrlich should sign this legislation.

Most important is to show compassion to people who have found that marijuana’s pain-relieving agents help them contend with cancer, multiple sclerosis, severe glaucoma and many of the ailments that ravage fragile bodies.

The Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act is named for a decorated Army officer who found in marijuana relief from the cancer that took his life four years ago. It is a modest step by any yardstick; the bill doesn’t legalize, decriminalize or provide cannabis by prescription. Nor does it deal in any way with marijuana for recreational use.

The legislation sets a maximum fine of $100 with no possibility of jail time for people who can persuade a judge that the marijuana for which they were arrested was for medical use. It’s a good idea because, sick or not, in Maryland you can go to jail for a year for tiny amounts of pot.

National Drug Czar John Walters attempted to derail this proposal, an extension of the federal government’s anti-drug campaign that has been both wasteful and insulting. Last year, the U.S. government spent $185 million on broadcast and print ads tying marijuana to terrorism.

It’s worth mentioning that the National Institute on Drug Abuse concluded that the ads were ineffective. Our problems with their approach are two-fold: First, they were ridiculous, recalling the “Reefer Madness” propaganda of the 1930s that became a campus comedy hit a half-century later.

Second, the campaign was a waste of scarce tax money at a time when states and counties are burdened with massive homeland security costs. The nation already is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on marijuana arrests every year; one study found that it costs counties $4,500 to prosecute for every $100 marijuana misdemeanor.

As we’ve advocated in recent editorials, the time is now for a common sense approach that enables us to conserve resources at home and thereby enhance our security.

This is no liberal-conservative issue, by the way. Those who advocate medical marijuana use include conservative columnist William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman, the famed economist and hero to GOP supply-siders.

There are indications that Gov. Ehrlich has an open mind. As a congressman, he supported similar, no-cost compassionate legislation.

We’re hoping he’ll make short work of saying yes to this reasonable bill.



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Last updated April 9, 2003 @ 3:57pm