In news coverage of last week’s Department of Justice memo, there was a lot of confusion over exactly how many states have medical marijuana laws. Some outlets reported that 14 states have such laws. Others said 13 states. So which is it? And why the confusion?
The answer is 13. They are Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
But many media—as well as some government sources—incorrectly counted Maryland as the 14th state to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest and prosecution. Unfortunately, Maryland’s law does no such thing; the Free State has not yet earned a place among states with effective medical marijuana laws.
That’s because the Darrell Putnam Compassionate Use Act, signed into law in 2003 by then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R), falls short of the laws passed by the 13 medical marijuana states in many respects.
Here’s why: Maryland’s law protects patients from jail, but it does not protect them from arrest and does not give them any means of safe access to their medicine. Even patients using marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation are still subject to arrest, which has forced many to appear in court to prove they use marijuana because of medical necessity. While the law does protect seriously ill patients from any prison sentences if they can prove a medical necessity, it still allows for fines up to $100, and it gives prosecuted patients no recourse to seek refunds for legal fees. In many instances, the fate of medical marijuana patients in Maryland depends solely on their legal representation.
A proposal to create a state task force that would have re-evaluated Maryland’s current medical marijuana law died in committee earlier this year. But until reforms are passed, Maryland should not be included in the list of medical marijuana states.
Read more about Maryland’s medical marijuana laws and the latest legislative developments here.