|Casey Prather/The Towerlight|
Medical marijuana advocates continue to push for the legalization of cannabis for licensed patients in Maryland through a proposed bill, The Medical Marijuana Act, HB 15.
The bill could allow the medicinal use of cannabis in Maryland as early as September, reports Gabrielle LePore at the Towson University student newspaper, The Towerlight. State licensed growers would cultivate the marijuana if the bill is passed.
HB 15 is a step toward increasing the quality of life for those who could benefit from medical marijuana, according to Donna Cox, a professor in Towson U.’s department of health science.
Patients with documented and approved medical reasons for medical marijuana wouldn’t have to go through the stress of being arrested, hiring lawyers and going to court in order to be able to use cannabis.
|Donna Cox, Ph.D.: “For people who need it, and it’s something that physicians are endorsing for their patients, then the state would like to be able to accommodate that”|
”For people who need it, and it’s something that physicians are endorsing for their patients, then the state would like to be able to accommodate that,” Cox said.
Marijuana is prohibited for any purpose by federal law, but 16 states and Washington, D.C., permit its use for some medical conditions. Currently, Maryland state law does not protect patients who use and possess marijuana.
Last year, the Maryland Legislature passed SB 308, which laid out minimal protections for patients, but did not set up a means by which patients could legally obtain marijuana, nor protect them from arrest and prosecution. Instead, SB 308 commissioned an 18-member “workgroup” to develop a proposal for introduction in the 2012 Legislature.
On December 9, the workgroup issued two legislative proposals, each supported by an almost equal number of members, reports Americans for Safe Access (ASA).
One proposal, back by workgroup chair and Maryland Health & Mental Hygine Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, focuses on an unprecedented and untested distribution system that relies on “Academic Medical Centers,” something that advocates say leaves the state vulnerable to a federal legal challenge.
The other proposal, which is backed by Maryland Del. Dr. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), is a near exact replica of a bill that failed to pass out of committee last year because of objections from Secretary Sharfstein and a fiscal note that alleged exorbitant costs to Maryland taxpayers. Advocates say the fiscal note is inaccurate.
|Maryland House of Delegates|
|Delegate Cheryl Glenn: “As a legislator dedicated to addressing the needs of medical marijuana patients in Maryland, I am very disappointed in both legislative proposals being offered by the commissioned workgroup. I am offering a different bill…”|
”As a legislator dedicated to addressing the needs of medical marijuana patients in Maryland, I am very disappointed in both legislative proposals being offered by the commissioned workgroup,” Del. Cheryl Glenn, sponsor of HB 15, said. “I am offering a different bill — what I believe is a common-sense approach to this issue, taking into account not only the needs of medical marijuana patients, but also the needs of the larger communities in which they live.”
According to Glenn, the ability of patients to grow their own medicine is key.
“In places that have ignored the need for patients to cultivate their own medical marijuana — such as Delaware, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia — thousands of patients have been forced to go without,” Del. Glenn said. “This is unacceptable and should be a lesson we learn from, not one we repeat in Maryland.”
“We hope that the Legislature will recognize the virtue of Delegate Glenn’s approach and pass HB 15 as a sensible way to address medical marijuana in Maryland,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, which has been working with Del. Glenn to develop a comprehensive state law.
Marijuana is a more natural alternative to the prescription painkillers often given to patients after surgery or to those suffering from certain diseases, said William Rynn, a sophomore secondary education major at Towson.
“I absolutely support it,” Rynn said. “It has been shown to help treat glaucoma.”
|William Rynn’s Home Page|
|William Rynn, sophomore, Towson University: “I absolutely support it”|
But other students had mixed feelings about the medicinal use of cannabis, largely due to a lack of education on the subject.
“I have always been told that smoking and drugs are bad for y]ou,” said Kasey Acito, a junior athletic training major at Towson. “I don’t understand how it is going to make anyone feel better or why it should be legalized. But if it does make people feel better, go for it.”
According to Professor Cox, issues such as monitoring and controlling the production and distribution of marijuana must be taken into account as the state moves towards medicinal legalization.
”[The state] has to consider its responsibilities that are associated with recognizing that marijuana is still a drug,” Cox said. “They have to enforce the law in regards to trafficking.”
She said there should also be quality control.
“There is variability in the product,” Cox said. “Any time you’re going to label something as a drug that is going to ease pain and provide medical benefit, then there should be some kind of quality control over the dose.”
But Food and Drug Administration regulations shouldn’t matter because of the organic nature of marijuana, according to Rynn.
“Marijuana is completely natural and not harmful,” he said. “The Food and Drug Administration approves a lot of drugs that can seriously damage your body, so there’s no
reason why the regulations should be an issue anyway.”
reason why the regulations should be an issue anyway.”
Amrith Wadhera, a cultural studies major and member of the Towson University chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said that supporters can come to group meetings to discuss their efforts.
Members talk about the issue at every meeting (Wednesdays at 5 p.m. in The Den) and screen medical marijuana films to increase understanding and awareness, according to Wadhera. The group meets in the room to the left of the main entrance; there will be a sign saying “NORML.”