New State Medical Marijuana Law Introduced in Maryland Legislature

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

ASA Government Affairs Director Caren Woodson 510-388-0546 or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361

New State Medical Marijuana Law Introduced in Maryland Legislature

Bill receives mixed reaction from advocates, citing several concerns

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - A new medical marijuana bill was introduced
late yesterday in the Maryland House of Delegates that would provide
patients with increased protections, seen by advocates as an
improvement over the state's current medical marijuana law, the Darrel
Putnam Compassionate Use Act, adopted in 2003. However, the
legislation, which was introduced by Maryland House Delegate Dan
Morhaim, M.D. (D-Baltimore County), has received a mixed reaction from
advocates. A bipartisan companion bill was also introduced yesterday by
State Senators Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) and David Brinkley
(R-Frederick/Carroll County).

"While we applaud the Maryland legislature for recognizing the need to
better protect medical marijuana patients from needless arrests and
prosecutions," said Caren Woodson, Government Affairs Director with
Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical
marijuana advocacy group. "The bill falls too short of meeting the
fundamental needs of patients." ASA has been working with the
legislation's sponsors to develop a more patient-focused bill.

The new legislation proposes that the Maryland Department of Health and
Mental Hygiene administer the state's medical marijuana program,
including the licensing of patients, caregivers, large-scale growers,
and distributors. Patients are restricted to 2-ounces of medical
marijuana in a 30-day period, can only obtain it from a licensed
caregiver or distributor, and cannot grow it themselves. All persons
licensed by the state are protected from arrest and prosecution, as
well as from "civil penalty or disciplinary action by a professional
licensing board for the medical use of marijuana."

ASA and other advocates have vocalized strong opposition to certain
provisions in the bill. Topping the list of concerns is the prohibition
on self-cultivation and the 2-ounce possession limit, which is an
insufficient quantity to treat some medical conditions. By comparison,
other states allow patients to possess at least 8 ounces and as much as
48 ounces of dried marijuana. Advocates are also concerned about
provisions restricting patients to one source of medical marijuana, and
imposing onerous restrictions on providers, including fingerprint
registration with the FBI, and a minimum requirement of $100,000 for
proposals to cultivate.

"This bill assumes that patients will be served by one provider alone,
and that all patients have the same medical needs," continued Woodson.
"Not only do patients use different quantities of medical marijuana
depending on the type and severity of their condition, but they also
need the freedom to choose which strains work the best for them."
According to advocates, prohibiting patients from more cheaply, and in
many cases more conveniently, growing the strains of medical marijuana
they need, threatens to undermine the legislation. Several states,
including California, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Maine, have
recognized the need for safe access and have implemented distribution
programs that complement self-cultivation. New Jersey is the only
medical marijuana state to prevent patients from self-cultivating, a
restriction that advocates vehemently opposed.

The Darrel Putnam Compassionate Use Act, Maryland's current medical
marijuana law, allows patients to use a medical necessity or
affirmative defense in court, but does not prevent them from being
arrested and prosecuted. The court can impose a $100 fine even if a
patient provides sufficient evidence of medical use. Several court
cases involving Maryland patients have received significant mainstream
media coverage over the past few months, illustrating the need to
improve Maryland law. "We welcome reconsideration of this issue by
Maryland legislators, but patients are counting on them to get it right
this time," said Woodson.

Further information:
Maryland's new proposed medical marijuana law (bill number is
forthcoming):
http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Maryland_Proposed_Law.pdf

ASA Legislative Memo re Maryland proposed law:
http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Maryland_Memo.pdf
Darrel Putnam Compassionate Use Act:
http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Maryland_Medical_Marijuana_Law.pdf

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Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

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