Maryland is set to be the 19th state to approve of a state medical marijuana program after Gov. Martin O'Malley announced earlier today that he would be signing the bill at a ceremony tomorrow.
While it sounds great - and no doubt will provide medical benefit to some patients - the program is arguably the strictest in the country and probably won't start serving patients until at least 2016 according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
House Bill 1101 will create an academic-run medical marijuana program that seems more like a giant science experiment than something that will actually get meds to sick patients. Basically, state universities will set up trials with reports on the efficacy of cannabis made regularly for the state health department.
The trial programs would be limited in the number of people they would be able to serve and would also be limited in the cannabis supply with a maximum of five growers per program. The bill does not set patient possession limits, nor does it allow patients to grow their own.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley
Basically, it's all through the state or nothing at all. And frankly, it might just be nothing at all across the board. Already the University of Maryland Medical System and John Hopkins University have said they will not participate in the program. When two of the most prestigious medical programs in the country turn you down, things aren't looking good.
Another medical marijuana bill proposed this session failed. House Bill 302 would have been much better for patients in Maryland by allowing for state-regulated dispensaries (not unlike Colorado) as well as allowed patients to possess up to six ounces and cultivate up to a dozen plants at a time.
House Bill 1101 is one of many bills being signed tomorrow, including one repealing the state death penalty.