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To Bring Marijuana To Maryland, Decriminalization Has Strongest Prospects

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Elizabeth Yun of Greenbelt, Md., wants medical marijuana made available to treat her son's seizures. (WAMU/Matt Bush)

The prospects for legalizing marijuana during this year's session of the Maryland General Assembly are fading, but supporters of the proposal remain unfazed.

Elizabeth Yun of Greenbelt stood at a rally outside the statehouse in Annapolis with a sign showing photos of her 9-year-old son Julius in a hospital bed. He suffers from seizures, and his mother would like to be able to give him what's called "Charlotte's Web" — a strain of medical marijuana that she cannot get in Maryland because lawmakers have dithered on setting up the state's medical marijuana program.

"There are no dispensaries. The bill has stalled. So, it's not an option for us," Yun said.

Yun now supports legalizing marijuana totally, believing that will bring Charlotte's Web to her son.

"It should alleviate the seizures and get him off the harsh anti-seizure meds," she said. "I mean...he's taking seven tablets a day. And he's still not seizure free."

But hopes for legalization this session are falling away, in large part because a bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession is succeeding.

Montgomery County Democratic Del. Heather Mizeur has made legalization a key part of her gubernatorial campaign. But she concedes that until voters send the message that they support legalizing the drug, the issue will fall on deaf ears in Annapolis. She told the rally to keep the pressure on lawmakers to okay decriminalization in the coming weeks.

"In Maryland, we put 23,000 people a year away just for marijuana possession," Mizeur said. "That's like jailing the graduating class of the University of Maryland College Park every single year."

The decriminalization bill has already passed the Senate this session, just like it did last year, when it failed to get out of the House Judiciary committee in large part because committee chairman Joe Vallario of Prince George's County doesn't support it.

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