On Monday, the House of Delegates passed Del. Cheryl Glenn and Del. Dan Morhaim’s medical marijuana bill in a 127-9 vote. This year, Maryland may finally become the 21st state with an effective medical marijuana law!
The General Assembly already approved of a limited medical marijuana law last year. However, that program relied on the participation of research hospitals, and realistically would not have provided any patients with access to medicine.
This year’s medical marijuana bill, HB 881, does not rely on hospitals to implement the program, but instead allows certain physicians to recommend medical marijuana directly to their patients. It would also allow up to 10 cultivators to receive licenses to legally grow and distribute medical marijuana. Medical marijuana could be recommended to qualifying patients suffering from debilitating illnesses that produce severe pain, nausea, or seizures.
The Senate has traditionally been the more supportive of the two chambers, but we should not take their votes for granted.
Last week, a number of medical marijuana patients and supporters, including MPP’s Dan Riffle, were at the Maryland statehouse to testify on the need to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest.
Here is some TV coverage of the hearing:
The bill, sponsored by Sen. David Brinkley, is based on one of two draft bills proposed by members of Maryland’s medical marijuana workgroup. Only one version, the one suggested by Del. Dan Morhaim and MPP’s director of state policies Karen O’Keefe, would provide patients with safe and reliable access to their medicine.
Unfortunately, Gov. O’Malley has promised to veto the bill in its current form due to concerns of possible federal prosecution of state employees. To date, no state official has been charged with a crime for following medical marijuana laws. The bill is now being amended in an attempt to ease these unjustified concerns.
Yesterday, a team of bipartisan Maryland legislators announced the details of two bills that would make medical marijuana legal and accessible for qualified patients in the state.
The bill’s main sponsor in the House is Del. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), who, as an internist and emergency medical physician, has been very effective at explaining why patients and doctors need access to a range of treatment options, including marijuana.
As proposed, the bill would allow patients with a “debilitating medical condition” to obtain marijuana from state-run distribution centers with the recommendation of a doctor with whom they have a long-standing relationship.
However, the new bill would not allow patients to grow their own marijuana, and they would have to try other treatment options before marijuana.
But if passed, the new law would be a vast improvement for medical marijuana patients in Maryland. Under current state law, patients are provided with a limited affirmative defense in court, but they have no protection from arrest or a criminal conviction, and no safe and reliable access to their medicine.
Under this new proposal—which has backing from a diverse and bipartisan group of legislators and has so far seen no opposition—those patients would no longer be treated as criminals, and they would have safe access to the medicine they need.