Yesterday morning, the Maryland state Senate voted on a proposal that would allow people with certain chronic or terminal illnesses a sort of “get out of jail free” card if they’re arrested for smoking marijuana.
The bill, which was re-written to make it more palatable to anti-medical-marijuana legislatures, includes verbiage calling for a study group to determine the best way for Maryland to establish a limited medical marijuana program, and also includes the requirement that academic institutions must apply to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) in order to institute programs where cannabis is distributed to patients.
Senator Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), one of the sponsors of the bill, told the press, “The politicians have caught up with the public. People believe the seriously ill should have access to marijuana if they need it for therapeutic proposes.”
Right now, patients who can prove their marijuana use is meant to relieve pain are subject to a misdemeanor charge and a fine of $100. Under the new proposal, smoking pot or owning “paraphernalia” would be decriminalized for such patients, as long as a doctor attests that the drug is necessary. Doctors would be protected because they cannot be reprimanded for merely giving the opinion that a patient would benefit from the use of marijuana.
Selling marijuana to patients would remain illegal, however, and users would have to secure their supplies from black market sources.
Earlier in this legislative session, a broader measure designed to establish a complete medical marijuana program in Maryland died after Joshua Sharfstein, the newly-appointed DHMH Secretary voiced opposition to it in a committee hearing. When asked about the current proposal, Sharfstein said he had “no position” on it, though he does support studying a limited program with plans to create a legal framework for it during the 2012 legislative session.