ANNAPOLIS – More than 70 percent of Maryland residents support the medical use of marijuana, according to a poll released Friday by the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland.
This is good news for Delegate Donald Murphy, R-Baltimore County.
Next week he plans to introduce a bill to allow patients with specific illnesses to possess marijuana for medical use without state penalties. Those patients could still face federal charges.
Murphy said he is not surprised that residents support the idea behind his bill.
“The people of Maryland are at least as compassionate as the people in other states that have passed similar legislation,” he said.
The telephone poll, conducted between July and October 1999, found that 73 percent of those surveyed answered yes to the question “Do you think physicians should be allowed to prescribe marijuana for medical use?” Twenty-three percent answered no and 4 percent said they didn’t know.
However, 75 percent of those asked opposed recreational use of the drug by answering no to the question: “Do you think adults 21 or older should be able to possess small amounts of marijuana for their personal use without legal penalty?”
Murphy said his bill doesn’t address recreational use, nor does he think it would be a first step toward legalization, as critics have charged. His intent, he said, is to help, not punish, the seriously ill.
“If we are going to have a war on drugs, we ought to make sure we know who the enemy is,” Murphy said. “These people are not the enemy.”
Marijuana can be used to battle the side effects of chemotherapy, by stimulating the appetite and reducing nausea, according to Robert Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, and may do the same for patients with AIDS. The drug also can alleviate chronic pain, he added.
The Institute of Medicine acknowledged last year that drugs derived from cannibus have some therapeutic value, but did not support decriminalizing the drug before more research could be done.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy said research is needed to weigh the benefits and risks of marijuana use. Marijuana has many of the same chemicals as tobacco products, and its use could cause cancer. Murphy said the decision to use marijuana, in spite of these consequences, should be left to the physician and the patient, not the Legislature. A conservative lawmaker, he believes in the Republican maxim: “I believe…that the best government is that which governs least.” He said his bill has support from delegates in both political parties. Chuck Thomas, also of the Marijuana Policy Project, agreed this is not a liberal or conservative issue. “This is about whether we want seriously ill people to be arrested,” he said. -30- CNS-1-21-00