A medical marijuana bill, House Bill 15, has been filed in the Maryland General Assembly, and would establish cannabis dispensaries for the seriously ill. But a state panel charged with making recommendations on medical marijuana last month failed to find consensus, instead presenting two divergent plans.
Their report, released in December, outlines competing plans to implement Maryland’s medical marijuana law, which was passed last April and does not take the step of actually legalizing cannabis outright. The Legislature will be left to decide which of the two plans — if either — will be chosen for the distribution of medicinal cannabis in the state, reports Erin Cox at Hometown Annapolis
Under the bill passed in April 2011, criminal penalties were removed for the medical use of marijuana
when Gov. Martin O’Malley signed SB 308 as promised. The new law allows seriously ill patients to avoid prosecution when charged with cannabis possession, and also creates a commission to study medical marijuana laws and make recommendations on how Maryland can institute such a program.
Which, of course, brings us to the current proposals.
Existing proposals would give the green light to “compassion centers” which would distribute marijuana to patients, reports Matthew Bieniek at the Cumberland Times-News
The bill would repeal a number of laws against marijuana use and possession of paraphernalia, but also limits the amount of cannabis that can be legally possessed by compassion centers and by patients.
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|Dr. Joshua Sharfstein called the findings “a little rough around the edges” and said they should be “starting points”
The work group divided over two approaches in Maryland. The group’s chairman, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, said that no consensus was reached.
Between August and November, the group met three times, with subgroups meeting five times.
“During the deliberation process, it became clear that work group members held different perspectives on several critical issues that could not be represented by a single proposal,” a Maryland state press release read. “As a result, the group decided to provide the General Assembly with two different proposals.”
Sharfstein called the findings, presented along with draft legislation, “a little rough around the edges” and said they should be “starting points” for legislative discussions, reports Nicole Fuller of The Baltimore Sun.
The first option would emphasize “continued study” of marijuana and only make it available through research institutions like university hospitals, which of course, in the real world, might mean doing nothing and continuing to deny access to seriously ill patients, while trying to give some bogus impression of “doing something.”
|David Brinkley, Maryland State Senate
|This man is a leader. State Sen. David Brinkley: “I’m trying to get patients out of the black market and prevent them from being treated like criminals”
Access to marijuana under the first option would be limited to test subjects; cannabis would not be available to the general population of those suffering from illness or pain that might respond to the herb. There would be strict state oversight of the research programs.
Getting marijuana to a wide range of patients across the state is the goal of the second proposal. The state would either license or register academic institutions, growers and distributors of cannabis, and would encourage safe access by patients across Maryland.
HB 15 more closely follows this proposal.
State Senator David Brinkley, a Republican representing Carroll and Frederick counties, served on the group and supports the second option, which he said would provide “patient access” and would decriminalize medical marijuana for patients suffering from chronic illness.
“I’m trying to get patients out of the black market and prevent them from being treated like criminals,” Brinkley said. “There’s a polarization on what to do about it. We got to hear all sides. Just focusing on the study side doesn’t help anybody … That’s not the reality of what these patients are dealign with.”
Governor Martin O’Malley has no plans to include a medical marijuana package in his legislative agenda, according to spokeswoman Raquel Guillory.