Maryland lawmakers admit state medical marijuana program isn’t working


Under the guise of helping sick patients find relief, Maryland created the country’s most restrictive medical marijuana program last year that limits distribution to people who sign up for university-run studies licensed through the state. The program is so strict that many medical marijuana advocacy groups don’t consider Maryland to be a true medical marijuana state.
Lawmakers were quick to pat themselves on the back for being so progressive, but nearly a year later the reality is that the program has gone nowhere and sick Marylanders are still without access to legal medical marijuana.

The lack of access leaves patients like Barry Considine and Ken Kopper to still purchase marijuana illegally in their state. Considine suffers from post-polio syndrome and Kopper battles chronic pain issues from a pair of car accidents earlier in life. It also means that parents like Gail Rand have to watch as their children suffer needless seizure while similar children in states like Colorado have access to seizure-ending oils.
The problem now is that the state hasn’t yet approved regulations and, more importantly, not a single university has said they will participate in the programs out of fear of losing federal grant assistance. That includes major health institutions like the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins and Sinai Hospital.
Even the bill’s sponsor admits the failure of the program.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“The reality is: It’s not working, it’s not going to work,” Del. Dan K. Morhaim, told the Baltimore Sun this week. Morhaim says he’s tried to talk with leaders at local universities, but that his pleas have fallen on deaf ears. “I was hoping that they would change their minds. It’s clear that they won’t.”
There may be a fix in sight, though. Several lawmakers have suggested compelling the hospitals to participate in the program through legislative action, and at least one lawmaker is talking about re-writing the bill and bypassing the hospitals altogether. Morhaim even says he’s working on a fix himself.
The move towards increasing access has the support of Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was opposed to medical cannabis bills in the past but now admits that something needs to change to help out Maryland’s sick.
“Our hope is if there’s something that’s made this too cumbersome to move it forward in the context of medical marijuana, we can fix that this legislative session,” O’Malley told the Sun. “If we need to fix it … we can take advantage of these next 90 days and do that.”