Earlier this month, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed into law SB 174, known as Carly’s Law. This law creates an affirmative defense for patients suffering from debilitating epileptic conditions — or their caregivers — for the possession and use of marijuana extracts that are high in CBD (a component of marijuana). It is a strong endorsement by Alabama lawmakers of the medical benefits of marijuana. Unfortunately, the law suffers from several fatal flaws, rendering it ineffective.
Unfortunately, by being limited to low-THC extracts and patients with epilepsy, SB 174 leaves the vast majority of patients behind. Even patients with epilepsy are extremely unlikely to get relief. Carly’s Law requires a “prescription” for the legal use of medical marijuana. Yet “prescribing” a federally illegal substance may jeopardize a doctor’s federal license. Meanwhile, a “recommendation” is protected under the First Amendment.
By merely providing an affirmative defense, the law won’t protect patients from being arrested and dragged into court. Finally, this law relies on the University of Alabama at Birmingham to implement the medical marijuana program. Unfortunately, based on what we have already experienced in other states, this university hospital-based approach is extremely unlikely to ever get off the ground.
Yesterday morning, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law both the medical marijuana bill and the decriminalization bill, making Maryland the 21st state with an effective medical marijuana program, and the 18th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The medical marijuana bill expands a program that, while established last year, was unable to get off the ground. The previous law relied on the participation of teaching hospitals, which understandably did not want to be involved with a substance that is still federally illegal. The law signed today will allow registered cultivators to grow medical marijuana and up to 15 licensed cultivators to provide the medicine to patients and dispensaries. This new law will finally provide real access to seriously ill Marylanders.
The decriminalization law removes the criminal penalties for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, and replaces them with a civil fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program. The measurewill officially go into effect on October 1.
This is incredible progress, but our work is not done yet. A September 2013 poll found that 53% of Marylanders support legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and up, and taxing and regulating it like alcohol.
The annual WMUR Granite State Poll released Wednesday by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center shows a growing majority of New Hampshire adults support making marijuana legal and regulating it like alcohol.
The survey found 55% percent support making possession of small amounts of marijuana legal in New Hampshire — up from 53% in 2013 — and 67% approve of marijuana being sold in licensed retail outlets and taxed at levels similar to alcohol if marijuana possession becomes legal.
The poll also found that three out of five New Hampshire adults (61%) support House Bill 1625, a measure approved by the State House of Representatives and now being considered by the Senate that would reduce the penalty for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a $100 civil fine. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence, before heading to Gov. Martin O’Malley. Gov. O’Malley has previously said he’s “not much in favor” of decriminalization.
Saturday’s vote was the product of lots of hard work from MPP and our allies, both in the legislature and outside of it. Just a few days ago, the House Judiciary Committee gutted the decriminalization bill and replaced it with a task force that wouldn’t report back for two years. Thanks to the leadership from the Legislative Black Caucus and Del. Keiffer Mitchell, we were able to turn the tide. Many thanks to all of our supporters who emailed and called their delegates.