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May 2, 2003

Medical Marijuana Revisited - Part 2

Michael Barnes

Earlier during this past legislative session, I sent an email to District 3 State Senator Alex Mooney asking him to support the Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act when it came up for the floor vote.

Before I get too deep into this story, let me give a little background on my relationship with Senator Mooney.

Alex and I went to school together, graduated together, contact each other occasionally via email, and when we run into each getting gas or at public gatherings, we always talk, and not always politics

I respect Alex and his opinions, and although we don't always have the same opinions or run in the same social circles, I even consider him a friend.

That being said, let me get back to my story.

The email I sent to Senator Mooney was an 'official' constituent/Senator type of correspondence to his Senate email address, asking for his support for the bill. Usually I get a note back; some kind of acknowledgment. However, this time I heard nothing.

That is understandable, he is busy, especially toward the end of the session, and I am only one person out of many thousands in his district.

But then, recently, I received the following in the mail. This is the verbatim response I received from the Senator's office regarding my request for support. I will put the response in quotes and italics, with my comments in between various points.

"April 9, 2003 Mr. Michael Barnes

Dear Mr. Barnes,

Thank you for contacting me and explaining your interest in Senate Bill 502 (cross-filed as House Bill 702), the Darrell Putman Medical Research Act, which proposes to allow certain patients to use marijuana free from state prosecution. In addition, this bill allows a person charged with possession, or use, of marijuana to introduce evidence related to medical necessity. If the person is convicted and the court finds there was medical necessity, the bill limits the maximum punishment to a fine of $100."

First, the bill's name was changed prior to the vote coming before the Senate. Second of all, this description of the bill is a synopsis that runs the gamut of the original bill, all the way through to the watered down version which he still voted against, but I am getting ahead of myself.

" I voted against legalizing marijuana for the following reasons. First, legalizing marijuana is contrary to Federal law, and is opposed by the Bush Administration. Furthermore, police oppose legalizing marijuana even for medical purposes because they testified that it will make prosecution of all marijuana use impracticable."

Okay, this part looks like it is from the same cookie cutter template that 'Baby' Bartlett and Tim Ferguson used to respond to requests for support of this bill in the past.

The bill does NOT legalize marijuana. In its original form it removed criminal penalties for certain approved, monitored, authorized and licensed (state issued ID) users.

As far as it being contrary to Federal laws, since when should a state kowtow to the whims of unconstitutional federal mandates? The Federal government has NO constitutional grounds for making use of any substance for any reason illegal.

Who cares if the Bush Administration opposes it? I am sure Alex took many political science courses, apparently he didn't have one on the Constitution (or he slept through it). There are a couple of parts that he should reacquaint himself with. Specifically Article I, Section 8, and Amendments 9 and 10.

He doesn't seem to know that many police and police organizations support not only the decriminalization of medical marijuana, but also full decriminalization of possession and use of small amounts. They realize that the excessive effort and time spent fighting a substance then has no realistic lethal dosage causes more harm than it helps society.

" There is a concern that this bill does not protect physicians since Federal law prohibits the use of this Schedule 1 drug (defined by the Drug Enforcement Administration). Another unintended consequence may result in a physician's medical malpractice insurance being increased or revoked."

Again, Federal law. For someone who is for smaller government, he seems to rely on falling back on the old Big Federal Government as an excuse to not providing patients, who are suffering at the end of their lives, some relief.

The DEA is an unconstitutional entity that was created originally as the Bureau of Narcotics in the early part of the 20th century to help alleviate unemployment in law enforcement agencies.

Also, physicians in California, where a similar law passed a few years ago have not seen this 'unintended consequence'.

" Finally, I am concerned that Senate Bill 502/House Bill 702, as drafted may not establish appropriate "scientific" methods in its proposed research program. House Bill 702 passed the House of Delegates as well as the Senate, with a vote of 29 to 17 (enclosed is a copy of the Senate vote). The Darrell Putman Medical Research Act as amended by the House and passed by both chambers awaits the Governor's signature or veto."

The bill, as amended and passed, establishes NO research programs, thanks to being gutted by gutless, uncaring legislators. There are reams and reams of research and situational evidence that point unequivocally to marijuana in it smoked form having some effect in relieving suffering of those in the death throes of many types of cancer, as well as assisting with appetite in cases of AIDS' wasting syndrome.

The copy of the Senate vote shows that even with the extremely watered down version of the bill he still didn't see fit to support relieving the suffering of many Maryland citizens.

The letter continues with the traditional "I appreciate your time", and "please let me know when there are other issues" statements, and closes:

"Sincerely, Alex

Alex X. Mooney State Senator"

One thing he is right about, the bill does await the Governor's decision. He has shown in the past that he supports this type of bill. Governor Ehrlich, unlike many of his constitutionally misguided fellow Republicans, supports States Rights when it comes to deciding issues such as medical marijuana.

Governor Ehrlich, show you are a man of your word, and sign this bill. Tentacle readers: Contact Governor Ehrlich and let him know your feelings about this.

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