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Senate Approves Defense For Medical Marijuana Use

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)— Decriminalizing marijuana. The Senate passes a bill to establish a Maryland model for the distribution of medical marijuana.

But as political reporter Pat Warren explains, supporters were hoping for more.

Many Marylanders have illnesses that compel them to use marijuana at the risk of arrest and conviction.

"My migraines are out of this world," said Ann Smith Judy. "I got hit in the head with a crowbar."

The Senate acted on behalf of these citizens Thursday. While marijuana is illegal in Maryland, current law recommends reducing the penalty to a fine if there's proof it's being used for medical reasons, but the conviction stands.

"What happens if I get pulled over? I'll get arrested. I've gotten arrested before; the law does not help," Smith said.

Thursday's Senate action sets the patient free without a fine or record, but falls short of legalizing its use.

"I apologize to the thousands of Marylanders who are suffering who wanted us to go all the way. We didn't do that, but we're on a course to develop what we hope will be the best medical marijuana plan in the country," Sen. James Raskin said.

The bill requires the health department to create a medical marijuana plan that would eventually legalize its use.

"First of all, it's not gonna happen," Sen. Roy Dyson said.

Lawmakers opposed to the bill say federal drug laws can't be superseded.

"Drugs are so prevalent in our society. It just worries me," said Dyson.

But one man's worry is another man's rescue as testified by Baltimore native and talk show host Montel Williams in Annapolis this session.

"Unfortunately opiates don't work for me anymore so I'm left with one course of action," Williams said.

"People like Montel Williams who has MS are not criminals. They could be members of our family who are put in this position," Raskin said.

The next move is up to the House Judiciary Committee.

Maryland is one of 12 states considering marijuana for medical use this year; 15 other states have some form of legal use.

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