ANNAPOLIS–(ENEWSPF)–March 26, 2013. A bill that could allow Maryland citizens with serious illnesses to obtain medical marijuana legally via state-regulated programs took an important step toward becoming law yesterday when the Maryland House of Delegates voted 108-28 to send it to the Senate, where it is also expected to pass.
“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. “States around the nation are successfully implementing programs that provide patients with safe, legal, and reliable access to medical marijuana.”
HB 1101, introduced by Del. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore), an emergency room physician, would create a commission through which academic medical research centers could apply to operate medical marijuana programs. The programs would provide patients with marijuana grown by the federal government or state-licensed growers regulated by the commission. Program applications would be required 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.
“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.”
The Natalie M. LaPrade Commission, named for the mother of Baltimore Delegate and bill co-sponsor Cheryl Glenn, would be an independent commission within the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) comprised of 12 members, including the secretary of DHMH or his designee; three physicians; a nurse; a pharmacist; a scientist; a medical marijuana patient; an attorney with knowledge of medical marijuana laws; and representatives of the state attorneys’ association, the chiefs of police, and the Maryland chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration supports passing medical marijuana legislation, according to Maryland Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein. Last year, Gov. O’Malley and Sharfstein opposed such legislation due to concerns that the federal government would prosecute state employees involved in the distribution of medical marijuana. Sharfstein told lawmakers O’Malley’s position has shifted because there have been no charges filed against state employees in other states that operate medical marijuana programs.