Medical marijuana bill resurfaces -- Gazette.Net


Efforts to legalize the distribution and use of medical marijuana in Maryland have failed during the past few years, but Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-Dist. 45) of Baltimore is continuing the fight and has introduced legislation again.

“We’re going to keep nipping away at this until we get some relief for the citizens of Maryland,” Glenn said. “It is outrageous that we can’t do anything in the state of Maryland to help these people who are suffering.”

Among other things, Glenn’s bill would decriminalize the use of pot for medical purposes, require the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to adopt regulations governing the use of medical marijuana through “compassion centers” designated to distribute pot and establish a Medical Marijuana Advisory Board within the health department.

The law also would enact strict parameters for a patient to be prescribed pot, including a documented relationship with the prescribing doctor and a history of previous treatments that have failed where marijuana could be effective.

“I’m not trying to do anything to enhance the drug trade,” Glenn said.

A law passed in 2011 allows patients to use their prescriptions for medical marijuana as an affirmative defense if charged with possession. The new bill would ensure that those approved to use pot are not charged.

In 2012, Glenn introduced a bill that would have allowed designated caregivers of medical marijuana patients to use a similar affirmative defense. The bill passed in the House, but was not taken up by the Senate. Glenn reintroduced that bill, and said she expects it to pass both chambers this session.

Another bill, introduced last year by Sen. David Brinkley (R-Dist. 4) of New Market, would have allowed pharmacies to distribute pot to patients with prescriptions. That bill failed after Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) threatened to veto it. State health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein also has opposed licensing marijuana dispensaries.

Eighteen states and Washington, D.C., have laws that allow for the use of medical marijuana, but some observers say there is an inherent conflict in states making legal what the federal government prohibits.

Glenn said it would be fitting for Maryland to move forward this year in legalizing medical marijuana, given the progressive stance the state has shown on other issues in the past year, such as same-sex marriage and the Dream Act.

“Those things help people who are healthy, and that’s a good thing,” Glenn said. “Now let’s help people who are suffering.”