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House approves easing penalty for medical marijuana

The Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill yesterday that would lessen the penalty for sick people found with marijuana if they can prove they possessed it for medical reasons.

In a 73-62 vote, the House passed what is called a "defense bill." The measure doesn't make marijuana legal for those who say they need it, but it allows a judge to impose just a $100 fine if it is shown the drug is a medical necessity.

"I am not for expanding drug rights," said Del. Gail H. Bates, a Howard County Republican, "but ... there are times when medications do not work. I don't see this as being anybody's first choice." The Senate bill is in committee, where senators were waiting for House action.

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