Medical marijuana bill killed by 1 vote =>Thursday, April 11 @ 04:20:00 MST Source: Frederick News-Post ANNAPOLIS — By one vote, a Senate panel killed a medical marijuana measure Friday, causing a rift between the General Assembly's crime committees that could threaten other bills as the legislative session nears its end for 2002. The House Judiciary Committee had planned a Friday evening session to complete work on sexual predator bills from Sen. Timothy Ferguson, R-Frederick/Carroll, but that was postponed after the Judicial Proceedings Committee vote. Meanwhile, Judicial Proceedings chose Friday to postpone voting on sexual predator legislation from Delegate Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington. Sen. Clarence Mitchell, D-Baltimore, asked for the delay because of Judiciary's failure to act on the Ferguson measure. "It doesn't seem to have the same fluid nature that it does over here," Mr. Mitchell said. Ms. Hecht expressed worry over the bickering. "I think that they're playing with the issue of sexual predators, and that is so disturbing to me," she said. "It could be victim of horseplay between the two chambers, of which I'm not a part." The medical marijuana measure would allow the terminally ill to defend themselves from drug possession charges by saying they have a medical necessity to use it. If they can prove that claim, they would face no greater penalty than a $100 fine. After three years of struggling through the General Assembly, the bill, HB 1222, passed the House of Delegates 80-56 on March 24. Once reaching the Senate, Mr. Ferguson told the bill's chief advocate, Baltimore County Republican Delegate Donald Murphy, that he would "shepherd" the bill through his committee, Judicial Proceedings, in exchange for support for his bills in Judiciary. But shepherding the medical marijuana bill didn't mean he would vote for it. "At no time did I tell him I would vote for the bill," Mr. Ferguson said. He was part of the majority in a 6-to-5 vote to kill the bill. Mr. Murphy remembers Mr. Ferguson's promise differently. "Tim Ferguson failed to be truthful with me about HB 1222. It makes me wonder whether I can trust everything he said about" his bill, Mr. Murphy said. Mr. Ferguson's bill would allow judges to send repeat child rapists to life in prison without chance of parole. The Hecht bill before Judicial Proceedings is similar. "I hope Senator Ferguson will help me, as he promised and bring this to a vote," Ms. Hecht said. Mr. Murphy wondered whether the Ferguson legislation passed the Senate because of its need or because of the relationships Mr. Ferguson has developed. "If a bill can be passed for a quid pro quo, a bill can be killed for a quid pro quo," Mr. Murphy said. Mr. Ferguson said he couldn't support the marijuana bill because federal law still makes possession a crime, and doctors wouldn't be able to prescribe it. "If we let doctors prescribe outside the pharmaceutical protocols, what's next?" he said. "That's an argument brought out of the blue. It's false and convenient," said Delegate David Brinkley, R-Frederick, a cancer survivor who was one of the marijuana bill's co-sponsors. "I think it's pretty pathetic." The medical marijuana supporters on Judicial Proceedings included some of the panel's most liberal members — Clarence Mitchell, Ralph Hughes and Perry Sfikas of Baltimore and Jennie Forehand of Montgomery County — along with one of its most conservative, Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester. Mr. Colburn said his own prostate surgery had a role in his decision. "It seemed like a good compromise," he said."