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Maryland Medical Marijuana Bill Passes House

The Maryland House of Delegates Monday approved a bill that would allow academic medical centers to provide medical marijuana to patients whose doctors recommend it. The measure passed easily on a 108-28 vote and is expected to pass the Senate as well.

The bill, House Bill 1101, would set up a medical marijuana commission to which the centers could apply for permission to administer marijuana to patients within a research-focused program. Marijuana would be grown either by state-licensed growers or by the federal government.

Sponsored by Del. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore), the bill would require the academic medical centers to specify qualifying medical conditions for treatment; treatment duration and dosage; where marijuana would be obtained; sources of funding; and a plan for monitoring data and outcomes, among other things. Programs would initially be approved for one year but could be extended.

"People who use medical marijuana to treat illnesses like cancer and multiple sclerosis shouldn't have to resort to the illicit market to obtain doctor-recommended medicine," said Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, which has worked with legislators in Annapolis to move the bill. "States around the nation are successfully implementing programs that provide patients with safe, legal, and reliable access to medical marijuana."

While the bill has its problems -- it doesn't let patients grow their own, it would take years to implement and would either require federal cooperation or the centers to violate federal law -- it is a start, and can amended down the road if it proves unworkable.

 "It may take several years for a program to get up and running, and federal policy presents a substantial obstacle to a law like this one ever being fully implemented," Riffle said. "Still, this bill gives us hope that patients could have safe, reliable access through programs that bear the imprimatur of some of the country’s most respected medical institutions."

Along with New England and the West, the Middle Atlantic region is one of the most medical marijuana-friendly in the country. If the bill passes the state Senate and is signed into law, Maryland will join neighbors Delaware and New Jersey as medical marijuana states, as well as Washington, DC, where the first dispensaries are set to open next month.

Annapolis, MD
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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