Maryland Medical Marijuana Bill Defeated -- This Time 3/17/00

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update from the Marijuana Policy Project, http://www.mpp.org

On the evening of Friday, March 10, the Maryland House Judiciary Committee killed the medical marijuana bill (H.B. 308) by an 11-7 vote.

Del. Don Murphy (R-Baltimore County & Howard County), the sponsor of the bill, vowed to reintroduce the measure in November 2000 so that it could be at the top of the legislature's agenda when the next legislative session begins in January 2001. "As far as I'm concerned, the medical marijuana bill will be House Bill 1 next year," said Murphy.

Del. Ann Marie Doory (D-Baltimore City), vice-chair of the committee, started the debate by moving to give the bill an "unfavorable" vote. "I just can't get past the fact that it's against federal law," said Doory, referring to the fact that marijuana possession would remain a federal crime even if Maryland state law were changed. (In saying this, she was overlooking the fact that passing H.B. 308 would protect patients from being arrested under state law, which is responsible for 99% of marijuana prosecutions.)

Del. Murphy responded by asking committee members to vote against the "unfavorable" motion in order to give the committee the opportunity to amend the bill, thereby keeping the bill alive.

In an impassioned plea to his 21 colleagues, Del. Murphy said "there are 21 different reasons to vote against the bill, but there are five million good reasons to vote for it," referring to the approximately five million people who live in Maryland. He argued that Maryland is a high-risk state for cancer, and that any one of them who gets cancer might need to use marijuana as a medicine.

"This is the only instance I can think of where the victims are also the perpetrators of the crime," said Murphy, referring to patients who are forced to break the law.

Del. Dana Dembrow (D-Montgomery County), a cosponsor of H.B. 308, argued that the bill didn't even need to be amended, referring to the bill as virtually "perfect."

Del. Pauline Menes (D-Prince George's County & Montgomery County), another supporter of the bill, said that "everything we deal with is crime and punishment. Isn't it nice to have the opportunity to vote for life?"

Delegates Lisa Gladden (D) and Kenneth Montague (D), both from Baltimore City, also spoke glowingly about the bill.

"The way that my colleagues were talking, I thought I was listening to the eulogy at my own funeral," Murphy said after the vote.

In addition to the five delegates who spoke in favor of the bill -- Dembrow, Gladden, Menes, Montague, and Murphy -- Delegates Sharon Grosfeld (D-Montgomery County) and Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) also voted in favor of the bill.

The 11 committee members who voted against the bill are listed below. In addition, two delegates abstained from voting (including the chairman, who traditionally does not vote), and two delegates were not present when the vote was taken.

Ultimately, the bill was defeated because the Democratic leadership -- including Joseph Vallario, the committee chairman -- didn't want to have to vote on the bill on the House floor. "At 7:49 p.m., this bill succumbed to politics," said Murphy.

IF YOU ARE GOING TO CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS...

If you are going to contact your state legislators to tell them what you think of the committee vote, please be respectful. MPP believes it is likely that enough committee members can be persuaded to vote "yes" on the bill next time around to get the 12 committee votes that are needed to send the bill to the House floor.

COMMITTEE VOTE TABULATION

The following seven committee members voted in favor of the bill by voting "no" on the "unfavorable" motion:

Del. Dana Dembrow (D-Montgomery County), a cosponsor of H.B. 308
Del. Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City)
Del. Sharon Grosfeld (D-Montgomery County)
Del. Pauline Menes (D-Prince George's County & Montgomery County)
Del. Kenneth Montague (D-Baltimore City), a cosponsor of H.B. 308
Del. Donald Murphy (R-Baltimore County & Howard County), sponsor of H.B. 308
Del. Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County)
The following 11 committee members voted against the bill by voting "yes" on the "unfavorable" motion:
Carmen Amedori (R-Carroll County)
Charles Barkley (D-Montgomery County)
David Boschert (R-Anne Arundel County)
William Cole (D-Baltimore City)
Ann Marie Doory (D-Baltimore City), vice-chair of the committee
Joseph Getty (R-Carroll County)
John Giannetti (D-Howard County & Prince George's County)
Thomas Hutchins (R-Charles County)
Kevin Kelly (D-Allegany County)
Anthony O'Donnell (R-Calvert County & St. Mary's County)
Carol Petzold (D-Montgomery County)
The following two committee members were not in the room at the time of the vote:
Melony Griffith (D-Prince George's County)
David Valderrama (D-Prince George's County), a cosponsor of H.B. 308
The following two committee members abstained from voting:
Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County & Baltimore City)
Joseph Vallario (D-Prince George's County), chair of the committee
For further information, visit http://www.mpp.org.

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