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Supporters Say Legalizing Medical Marijuana In Md. Will Help Save Lives

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A good kid---an Eagle Scout---buys marijuana on the street. What would make him do that? He tells his story to Vic Carter. He's in the fight of his life and wants you to know why he's breaking the law.

They believe lighting up marijuana will help save their lives.

It's no ordinary high.

"It's just as useful to me as chemotherapy," said Phillip Weigner, medical marijuana user.

The 22-year-old is battling a rare type of Stage 4 cancer. The symptoms are brutal.

But marijuana "helps me with my appetite, nausea, sleep...some of the pain that I have," he said.

Weigner says he's fighting his disease with everything that he has.

Before he got sick, Weigner worked and went to college. He loves snowboarding, hiking and photography. An Eagle Scout, he was the last person you'd expect to break the law, but cancer changed that.

Weigner says it was absolutely difficult to make the decision to purchase and use marijuana.

"It scares me every day to have to go out on the black market and look for it and have the potential threat of arrest," he said.

Last December, that's exactly what happened during a routine traffic stop in Montgomery County. The officer searched his car and discovered a bag of marijuana and a pipe.

"I couldn't imagine what going to jail would be like," he said.

"There's no reason that somebody like Phillip should have to spend a night in jail, hire an attorney and go to court simply to use his medicine," said Kate Bell, Weigner's attorney.

Since medical marijuana is illegal in Maryland, it's hard to say exactly how many people use it, but Weigner's lawyer says there are thousands.

"The patients know they are breaking the law, but the greater good is the preservation of their own health," Bell said.

Despite repeated pleas from people suffering from diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and glaucoma, each year Maryland lawmakers refuse to allow them to buy it here legally.

"We don't want to be considered a criminal," said TV personality Montel Williams.

Year after year, the Baltimore native and former talk show host lobbies Annapolis to legalize medical marijuana. An outspoken advocate, Williams uses it to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

"I have been living with neuropathic pain in my lower extremities, my face and my side for 10 years, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year... period. It doesn't go away," Williams said.

Williams says the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Mayo Clinic and others know it works. But opponents worry that legalizing marijuana sends the wrong message.

"I don't care if it's for medical use. I don't care if it's for personal use. When you smoke pot, you get high and when you get high you are impaired," said Mike Gimbel, substance abuse expert.

People who are suffering ask others to understand it helps them eat and sleep and survive.

Weigner says using marijuana is keeping him alive.

"That, in combination with other medications, that's what's keeping me alive," he said.

Medical marijuana is legal to varying degrees in 16 states and in Washington, D.C.

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