The Maryland legislature has approved a bill creating a state-regulated medical marijuana program, pushing on to the governor's office for final approval. Earlier today the state Senate passed a third and final reading of the bill 42-4, marking the end of its legislative journey over the last few months.
Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he approved of House Bill 1001 earlier this year, which no doubt helped the bill get as far as it has. Past attempts and medical marijuana programs in Maryland have been shot down by O'Malley's fear that state lawmakers could face federal prosecution by enacting marijuana-related laws.
While the bill is a step in the right direction, in many ways it's overly restrictive and we aren't sure how much immediate relief it will give to patients in Maryland. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, the bill could take two years to get up and running.
Since 2003, Maryland laws have allowed for medical use to be used as an affirmative defense if patients with a doctor's recommendation are charged with marijuana possession up to an ounce.
If signed by the guv (which is expected), House Bill 1101 would create a medical marijuana dispensary program run through academic research centers. Information on patient health and the efficacy of the cannabis would be collected and compiled into reports for the state health department.
The programs would be able to have up to five growers for their program, which could potentially limit patient participation to some degree. Patient possession limits are not discussed in the bill, which presumably would be left up to the programs. Patients would not be allowed to grow their own medicine.
According to the Capital Gazette, The University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins University have already said they won't participate in the program.
(Read language of House Bill 1101 at the state legislative site.)
House Bill 1101 is the only one to advance out of three medical marijuana bills proposed this session. House Bill 1100 was similar to 1101 in that it established a research-based system for dispensing marijuana to registered patients, but voted down in committee. House Bill 302 would have allowed for dispensaries regulated by the State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and allowed patients to possess up to six ounces and cultivate twelve plants at a time.