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Some Say Medical Marijuana Bills Are Smokescreens For Full Legalization

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Rochelle Ritchie joined WJZ Eyewitness News in June 2012. Prio...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—Delegates are hoping three new bills aimed at legalizing medical marijuana will make it out of the committee to the House floor. But it’s coming with some opposition.

Rochelle Ritchie has more on the passionate arguments on both sides.

The Medical Marijuana Act would legalize medical marijuana in the state of Maryland. It certainly has the state divided. While some call it a pain reliever, others call it a gateway drug.

Legalizing medical marijuana is a bad idea to some and a good idea to others.

“I feel like it would cut down on some of my pain that I stay in,” said Lawanna Elsafty, medical marijuana supporter.

“It’s not the job of politicians to approve the use of any drug for medical purposes,” said Mike Gimbel, drug expert.

In a joint House Committee hearing Friday, delegates listen as people made their case to legalize medical marijuana.

Barbara Mattison shed tears thinking of how her father died of cancer and says while medical marijuana could not provide a cure for his illness it would have made death more comfortable.

“He died in severe pain. I had to watch him suffer,” Mattison said.

The bill would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients with certain debilitating diseases. Those who have used medical marijuana for health reason say it works.

“It’s only two or three puffs, and within 15-20 minutes my pain is gone,” said Barry Considine, supporter.

Others opposing the bill say the drug only has one purpose: to get people high.

“I think the medical issue is a smokescreen that ultimately leads to what they really want, which is legalization of pot,” Gimbel said.

State Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein is not 100 percent against the bills but says amendments are needed.

“The key point in the amendments is that we don’t know the federal legal landscape,” Sharfstein said.

Last year a similar bill failed after concerns of state employees could be prosecuted by the federal government.

Right now several states use marijuana for medical purposes, including Colorado, California and Washington.

Another bill that would legalize pot entirely will be heard next week by the House Judiciary Committee.

In 2011, a law was made that allowed people who were caught with marijuana to avoid prosecution if they could prove it was for medical use.

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