A bill, SB 627, that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in Maryland passed out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Monday, but appears stalled in the House, where there is talk of postponing consideration of it until "working groups" hammer out concerns between now and next year.
Advocates lauded the Senate committee victory, which came on a 7-4 vote. "This vote represents the biggest victory to date for supporters of an effective medical marijuana law in Maryland," said Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. "I look forward to a productive discussion on the Senate floor, and I sincerely hope Maryland legislators do all in their power to get this bill passed and ensure Maryland's most vulnerable citizens don't have to spend another year living without effective medicine or in fear of arrest."
But with the legislative session set to end next week, companion legislation in the House, HB 712, is all but dead for now. So many concerns were raised by House members that supporters agreed to establish a working group to address them and that working group has recommended putting off any action until next year.
"We worked through, I think, all the issues. There are just some legislators who have an uncomfortable feeling and they can't really define it," said Del. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County). "Bills like this sometimes take two years. I hope not, because every year that goes by, there's another set of Marylanders who are going to be suffering needlessly," Morhaim said.
One roadblock is House Judiciary Committee Chair Del. Joe Vallario. "The manufacturing and production are something that we're going to really have to look at," he said.
Another roadblock is cost and a tight state budget. Del. James Hubbard (D-Prince Georges), who headed the House working group, said the proposed medical marijuana program's start-up costs were an issue. "We don't pass bills without funding sources," Hubbard said, referring to costs that analysts believe would take to get the program off the ground. "And in this budget year, it's tough trying to find $40, much less $400,000."