Morhaim’s bill, which has been endorsed by several medical organizations, won bipartisan backing in the House. But some delegates said they remained uncomfortable with it. Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R-
Talbot) said that “the controls didn’t go far enough.”
The Senate has not taken action during this session on a medical marijuana bill. But last week, the chamber passed a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug.
Under the bill, anyone caught with 10 grams or less would be subject to only a $100 civil fine. Under current law, such offenders face up to 90 days behind bars and a fine of up to $500.
Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, said that his chamber feels strongly about the merits of the Senate bill but that “it’s too early to tell how this is going to come out.”
“It’s conceivable that both bills could wind up passing,” he said.
On another matter, the Senate brushed aside objections from Republicans and some conservative Democrats and voted 29 to 18 for a bill to allow illegal immigrants to obtain Maryland driver’s licenses.
The measure would make Maryland the only East Coast state to allow illegal immigrants statewide to apply for a license. Applicants would have to produce a birth certificate or other form of identification and two years of Maryland tax filings.
State analysts say the measure could allow tens of thousands of illegal immigrants to obtain licenses in Maryland in coming years. Applicants would have to complete written and road tests, like other drivers.
Sen. David R. Brinkley (R-Frederick) blasted the measure, which was sponsored by Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George’s).
“There is an immigration problem at the federal level that needs to be addressed, but this is not the solution to it,” Brinkley said. “You don’t grant some legitimacy to a person who is not here legitimately.”
Frosh argued that the measure would keep Maryland roads safer.
“If people at least learn how to drive, get insurance and don’t fear that they will be deported as soon as they are in an accident, we can improve the safety of our highways and save lives,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the House voted 132 to 0 for a bill that would allow prosecutors to seek up to five additional years in prison for people convicted of violent crimes committed in front of minors. The bill, which now moves to the Senate, is aimed at domestic abusers and has been a top priority of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D).
During hearings on the measures, advocates for the bill have played chilling 911 recordings of children reporting attacks on their mothers by their fathers. The state’s attorneys from both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have testified in favor of the bill, sponsored by Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Montgomery).
The House also passed, on a 93 to 43 vote, a bill that would help implement President Obama’s health-care law in Maryland. The vote split largely along party lines.
House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert) objected, saying, “I personally believe it will be the undoing of the state financially.”
Jenna Johnson and Kate Havard contributed to this report.