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Maryland Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #677)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

A bill that would provide Maryland medical marijuana patients with an affirmative defense to criminal marijuana possession charges passed the state Senate Thursday on a 41-6 vote. It now heads to the House of Delegates for a floor vote.

Patients could still be arrested, but not convicted, under the proposed law. (Image via
The bill, Senate Bill 308, builds on the 2003 Darrel Putnam Compassionate Use Act, which allowed for a medical necessity defense, but only to limit sentences. Under the 2003 law, qualified patients could still be found guilty and stuck with a misdemeanor conviction record, but could only be fined a maximum of $100.

SB 308 amends the 2003 law so that patients with "clear and convincing evidence" that they need to use marijuana for medical reasons are no longer found guilty and fined $100, but "if the court finds that the person used or possessed marijuana because of medical necessity, the court shall enter a finding of not guilty."

Unlike other medical marijuana states, patients are not protected from arrest and prosecution, but must instead defend themselves in court. Nor are there any provisions for them to grow their own medicine or buy it in dispensaries. But SB 308 does contain a provision that calls for a study group to study more comprehensive legislation for next year.

In a press release after Thursday's vote, the medical marijuana support group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) said that an earlier, comprehensive version of SB 308 had to be amended after its House companion bill stalled over fears its proposed state-run production and distribution system would cost too much. ASA said those cost estimates by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene were "extremely inflated," but necessitated a tactical retreat if any legislation was to pass.

"Rather than endure another failed attempt to pass meaningful medical marijuana policy in Maryland, patients have instead decided to support this stopgap measure," said Caren Woodson, ASA's government affairs director. "It's not ideal, but the bill will help patients avoid what is now a guaranteed conviction if arrested."

Maryland continues taking half-steps on the path toward becoming a medical marijuana state, but it's hard to argue with compromises that keep patients from getting fines and criminal records. Now, it's up to the House of Delegates.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


TJ (not verified)

Why is Maryland taking all these half baby steps. They should just make medical marijuana legal then they can save money on the courts and the cops wouldn't have to arrest you so you will save that money too. Patients have to still be scared that they are going to get caught. That is not right.

Fri, 03/25/2011 - 5:26pm Permalink
MS (not verified)

As progressive as Maryland is, we unfortunately have a governor who wants nothing to do with medicinal cannabis.  This "medical necessity defense" is not enough.  People who can benefit from cannabis should not be subjected to arrest and prosecution for simple posession.  I'm also keeping my eye on House Bill 606 -  Decriminalization of Cannabis in Maryland.  Hopefully my state will get with the times soon, but until then I'll have to settle for baby steps...

Fri, 03/25/2011 - 7:39pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by MS (not verified)

"People who can benefit from cannabis should not be subjected to arrest and prosecution for simple posession."

People who use cannabis (or other "illicit drugs") should not be subjected to arrest and prosecution for simple possession, transfer (sale/trade/gift), cultivation/manufacture, or use.  The Constitution does NOT give the government the power to regulate your personal life, nor to make laws which ban, or otherwise restrict whatever you may want to ingest.

Sat, 03/26/2011 - 2:53am Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

if you are arrested for drugs, you lose your gun rights, even if the charges are dropped or you are acquitted.  Just another excuse to take guns away from law abiding people.  Every State should just repeal all punishments for so-called "illicit drugs" -- no arrests, no fines, no jail terms, no mandatory treatment, and thwart the Chuck Schumers of the world.

Sat, 03/26/2011 - 2:46am Permalink
Clarify (not verified)

Pulling teeth with these douchers.  You'd think they're legalizing incest or something with how reluctant they are.

Sat, 03/26/2011 - 1:44pm Permalink
NoOneKnowsWhen… (not verified)

Here's my quick and to-the-point personal thought on this issue: I lost an eye to congenital glaucoma 50 years ago, and the only medicine that has relieved the constant pain AS WELL AS the subsequent and significant reduction of my inneroccular pressure (my medical records backup this claim), happens to be one that I must obtain through a rather frightening black market here in Baltimore.

"Why don't you grow your own?" I asked myself, then proceeding to produce ONE MEASLY PLANT A YEAR FOR MY PERSONAL MEDICAL USE- never selling or gifting my harvest to anyone, ever.

The reward for my self determination, alieviation of pain, a halt to the horrible procurement process along with my embrace of the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are arrest, humiliation and a felony charge of "Manufacturing and Distribution" due to the current law's archaic and unjust wording. I now face more jail time than someone who committed a violent and heinous act against his fellow man.
Do I support change of ANY kind to the present law? The answer would have to be a resounding D'UH!
Sun, 03/27/2011 - 9:28pm Permalink
NoMore Pills (not verified)

Here's my ply.  Since I was 18 years old, I've experienced 2 stomach ulcers.  In case others don't know about them, they are painful, very painful.  I was prescribed many different PILLS by various doctors over the years.  I am now 25 and still have just one ulcer.  According to my latest doc,  they are caused by stress/ anxiety.  Some of they ailments include, but are not limited to, pain, nausea, lack of appetite, risk of becoming septic, etc.  The last prescription I took was a pill that cuts off my stomachs ability to naturally produce stomach acid.  While this helps the healing process, it also slow metabolism and decreases appetite due to the inability to digest foods efficiently.  Because of this, my weight fluctuates to sometimes unsafe limits on the low end of weight limits for adults my age and height.  Also,  since the economy has struggled I've had to find a new job that, at present, does not pay well enough for me to afford health insurance.  Therefore, I cannot afford to buy the prescription that really just trades one problem for another.  I've smoked marajuana for fun before, numerous times.  It is the One thing that pretty much solves most of my problems.  Yes, I agree that I shouldn't smoke at work, or while driving,  the same as anyone on pain pills.  I really dislike pain meds.  Smoking isn't the healthiest thing to do in the world, but if it takes my nausea away, gives my and appetite, relieves stress, relieves pain, and gives me a general good feeling of life.  I would much rather smoke something safe with few side effects than take a pill that has precautions and that you can overdose and die from.

Mon, 04/04/2011 - 9:34pm Permalink
PleaseHelp (not verified)

If Maryland has to keep weighing the pros and the cons, this isn't going to go anywhere. How about looking at the other 14 states, including D.C., that have already legalized this medicine. Look at the pros and cons they made... the work has already been done for you, Maryland! Now please, pass this and save me from the menacing streets of P.G. County, Baltimore City, and the cops that so fervently scour the streets for marijuana users - legal and not.

Sun, 04/10/2011 - 4:54pm Permalink

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