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Md. Lawmakers Consider Legalizing Medical Marijuana

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- Is it for pleasure or pain?  That's the question state lawmakers are asking as they consider two bills that would lessen the jail time for people caught with marijuana. 

Gigi Barnett takes a look at the issue.

Under state law, large amounts of marijuana mean heavy jail time.  Even small amounts could net a conviction for some.  But now, state lawmakers are thinking about changing that with a bill that, if passed, would decriminalize small portions of marijuana.

"It's the law in about 13 other states," said Delegate Kurt Anderson.

Anderson wrote the proposed law that would call off a ticket and possible fine for anyone caught with less than an ounce of marijuana.  He says he wants it passed for two reasons.

"These marijuana arrests and convictions, hauling off young folks to jail, giving them criminal records has turned out to be a) a nuisance for police and then b) a terrible thing for a young person to have a record," Anderson said.

Meanwhile, the state is also considering a medical marijuana bill, after one that would have allowed doctors to prescribe the drug to patients failed last year.

Last month, Baltimore native and talk show host Montel Williams urged lawmakers to pass it.  Williams uses it to ease pain from multiple sclerosis.

"The only thing that has kept me a contributing member of this society for the last 10 years [is medical marijuana]," Williams said.  "So many people...are going to watch this press conference and say, `But there are so many things out there.'  Unfortunately, opiates don't work for me anymore."

But the opposition to medical marijuana here is strong.

"I think it's confusing.  It sends a mixed message not only to adults but certainly to our children," said one opponent.

Last year, Massachusetts lawmakers passed a similar law to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in that state.  Anderson says he modeled his bill after the one in Massachusetts.

In addition to Massachusetts, New York, Colorado and California also have laws that offer little or no jail time for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

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