Bush Administration, Prominent Republicans ‘Pressure’ Maryland Gov. Ehrlich To Veto Medical Marijuana Bill
Bush administration officials and other prominent Republicans are "heavily pressuring" Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) to veto a bill that lessens penalties for seriously ill patients who use marijuana as medicine, the Baltimore Sun reports. Ehrlich is a "longtime" supporter of medical marijuana, and he has said he is willing to consider signing the legislation, according to the Sun (Craig, Baltimore Sun, 4/4). The Maryland Senate last month approved the measure (S 502), which would reduce penalties for people who use marijuana for medical purposes, including people with HIV/AIDS. Marijuana can be used to ease nausea, pain and other symptoms commonly associated with terminal or chronic illnesses. The bill (HB 702), which was passed in the state House last month, would set a fine of up to $100 for using marijuana due to "medical necessity." In other circumstances, marijuana possession carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 3/27). Ehrlich, who co-sponsored medical marijuana legislation when he was in Congress, said he can "take some pressure" from national party leaders, according to the Sun. "I think most people can discern a clear difference between legalizing substances that wreck lives as opposed to a life situation where someone is doing something because of severe pain," Ehrlich said. Although Ehrlich is "inching" towards signing the bill, members of his administration said that it is "by no means a certainty" that he will sign the bill, according to the Sun. John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in a Baltimore speech that the General Assembly had been "conned" by medical marijuana proponents into supporting the bill (Baltimore Sun, 4/4). Walters said that modern medicine is more effective than marijuana at alleviating terminally ill patients' pain, the Associated Press reports. "We have the most sophisticated medical institutions in the history of man," Walters said, adding, "We don't use smoked weeds" (Witte, Associated Press, 4/3). Eight other states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington -- have laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.