Howard Week

March 25, 2001

Medical marijuana views cross lines of politics, ideology

The medical use of marijuana is one of the areas that highlights personal and pragmatic differences, rather than political and ideological ones, among the 11 members of Howard County's legislative delegation.

Conservative Republican Dels. Robert H. Kittleman and Donald E. Murphy say people dying of cancer should be able to use marijuana, if that helps, without worrying about being arrested. So do liberal Democrats Shane Pendergrass and Frank S. Turner.

"Darrell Putman was my constituent. He tried everything in the world and it didn't work. What works for one person doesn't work for someone else," Kittleman, the House GOP leader, said of the late western Howard farmer and former Green Beret who smoked marijuana to ease his symptoms and help his appetite. Putman was the inspiration for a bill last year seeking to legalize the medical use of marijuana.

Democrats Elizabeth Bobo and John A. Gianetti Jr., among others, oppose changing the drug's status.

Board votes to continue halt in open enrollment

Giving itself more time to study the popular but much debated policy, the Howard County Board of Education voted Tuesday night to continue for one year its moratorium on open enrollment.

"When we voted to have the moratorium, I knew one year would not be sufficient to gather any kind of data you need to come to any real conclusions," board member Sandra H. French said.

The 20-year open-enrollment policy allows parents to send their children to any school with empty seats if they provide transportation.

Zoning shift could curb expansion by churches

Proposed zoning law changes that could restrict the expansion of churches and increase housing for the elderly were discussed at a County Council hearing Monday night.

Also at the hearing, a bill to grant more generous pensions to county police officers drew support from police union and county government officials.

Concerning church expansion, Peter Mason, a member of the building committee of Calvary Lutheran Church in Woodbine, told the council that "our expansion would be in jeopardy" under the provisions of the proposal. Mason said that by increasing the property line setback from 30 feet to 50 feet, as proposed, the county would reduce the amount of land available for building from 75 percent of a parcel to 48 percent.

Impact of widening Route 32 debated

Polite disagreement prevailed Tuesday at a meeting of land-use experts convened to predict the impact that widening Route 32 in western Howard County would have on development in the region.

The state has assembled the nine-member panel of land-use experts to help in deciding how best to alleviate congestion and dangerous traffic conditions on the two-lane portion of Route 32 between Clarksville and West Friendship.

The state is considering adding two lanes and interchanges, adding interchanges only or leaving the road as is.

Some panel members predicted that expanding the road would greatly encourage homebuilding in western Howard and western Carroll counties. Expanding Route 32 would increase the pressure on county officials to loosen zoning rules to accommodate new housing in those areas, said Joseph M. Cronyn, a real estate expert from Columbia.

Zoning change to permit office towers protested

Nearly 100 residents turned out Wednesday night to protest a rezoning request that would allow the construction of office towers at Route 100 and Route 103.

The request before the Zoning Board applies to two residentially zoned parcels owned by Dr. Ahsan Kahn, 17 acres at the northeast corner of the junction and 4 acres at the southeast corner.

At Wednesday night's hearing, developer Donald R. Reuwer, who is working with Kahn, argued that the opening of Route 100 three years ago has made the parcels unfit for housing but ideal for office development.

Tobacco sales to minors could mean civil fines

Howard County merchants who sell tobacco products to minors would face civil fines under a bill submitted Thursday to the County Council.

County Executive James N. Robey said at a news conference that if the bill is approved in May, he would hire a Health Department inspector - paid from state tobacco settlement funds - to enforce the law. It is the second measure since December aimed at curbing youth smoking. A law prohibiting self-service tobacco product displays in stores took effect last month.

"Tobacco sales to minors have been illegal since the 1880s, but you wouldn't know it," Robey said, adding that recent school surveys show that 21.4 percent of middle and high school students use tobacco.

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