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Smoke begins to clear in marijuana debate

The debate about legalizing medical marijuana continues to roll forward.

The debate about legalizing medical marijuana continues to roll forward after legislators heard testimony yesterday from those for and against a bill to put pot in the hands of the sick and suffering.

During a hearing on Beacon Hill before the Joint Committee on Public Health, advocates urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow patients to access prescription pot to ease their ailments.

"I'm almost 60 years old, and it would be nice in my later years not to have to go on the street to find medical marijuana," said Eric McCoy, who has been using marijuana to help quell pains caused by multiple sclerosis.

Those against the measure said legalizing the drug could lead to increased accessibility beyond the intended population of patients.

If passed, the bill would set up 35 dispensaries around the state to distribute the drug.

Committee co-chairman Jeffrey Sanchez was skeptic about passing a law that would conflict with federal rules, however.

"I think the feds have been clear that they would go forward [and prosecute dispensaries]," said Sanchez.

If the bill does not get legislative support, proponents will need to harvest 11,485 voter signatures to get the question onto the ballot in November.