Assembly Passes Marijuana-Use Bill

Ehrlich Backs Reduced Fines for the Seriously Ill

The Maryland General Assembly voted to dramatically reduce penalties for cancer patients and others who smoke marijuana to relieve pain, and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) indicated that he is inclined to sign the measure. The bill would set a fine of $100 for using marijuana out of "medical necessity." Otherwise, the maximum penalty would be a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If the bill becomes law, Maryland would become the first state to single out seriously ill marijuana users for relaxed sanctions.

Smallpox Inoculation Probed

Officials Look for Possible Link to Heart Attack

Federal officials are investigating whether a Maryland hospital worker's fatal heart attack was related to the smallpox inoculation she received this month. Authorities also are investigating a second case in which a recently vaccinated woman, from an unidentified location, suffered a heart attack. She is on life support. The unidentified Maryland resident, who was in her fifties, was a nurse at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury and had volunteered to be vaccinated.

Change in Grading Policy Rejected

Montgomery Mulled Giving Finals More Weight

The Montgomery County Board of Education rejected a proposal to increase the weight of high school final exams from 25 percent of a student's semester grade to 30 percent as part of a change in school grading policy. Parents, students and many teachers had overwhelmingly objected to the proposal, arguing that a greater emphasis on exams would overstress students who don't "test well." The board approved the following: that grades should be consistent among schools, that a student's progress should be clearly and regularly communicated to parents, and that grades should be a pure measure of achievement on curriculum objectives.

Pr. George's Tax Rate May Rise

Johnson Wants More Funds for Schools, Police

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) proposed a $1.8 billion budget for next fiscal year that would raise the local income tax rate from 3.1 percent to 3.2 percent. Johnson said that would increase the tax bill for a resident making $50,000 a year by $50 . The majority of the funds in the budget proposal, which is 4 percent larger than last year's, would go to the county school system, public safety and the police. Other agencies' funds would be cut back.

Camp Registration Overloaded

Pr. George's to Expand Internet Access Lines

Prince George's County recreation officials plan to double the number of portals into the new Internet registration for summer camps after they found the system became overloaded when hundreds of parents went online to register their children for summer programs.

Officials said that they do not know how many people tried to access the SMARTlink system when registration opened at 9 a.m. March 15, but they said that all 100 lines were in use two seconds after registration began. More than 70 phone lines that were used for voice registration were more successful.

Across the Region

Cleaning Bill; Housing Construction Halted

* By a 6 to 3 vote, the Montgomery County Council passed a bill that will require new dry-cleaning businesses of more than 3,000 square feet to operate in industrial zones instead of commercial areas.

* Calvert County and the Army Corps of Engineers ordered construction on a major housing development in the Prince Frederick area stopped after finding that builders cleared trees without permission and disturbed sensitive wetlands.

* Language problems, cultural misunderstandings and the lack of health insurance are preventing many Howard County immigrants from getting medical treatment, according to a study by the Foreign-Born Information and Referral Network in Columbia, which trains and provides interpreters.

War protest: George Mason student Edward Russell studies history while a veterans

group helps make history near the Ellipse.