Amendment to New Maryland Medical Marijuana Bill Would Allow for Patient Cultivation

February 25, 2011
Annapolis, MD -- Maryland's House Deputy Majority Whip, Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore City), introduced a patient-focused amendment today to the new medical marijuana bill scheduled for a committee hearing Monday. House Bill 291 is Maryland's latest effort to pass a medical marijuana law that protects patients from arrest and prosecution, and which sets up a state-run production and distribution system. Responding to concerns expressed by patient advocates, Delegate Glenn introduced an amendment today that would allow registered patients to more reliably and affordably cultivate their own medicine, a right that hundreds of thousands of patients currently have in 14 of the country's 15 medical marijuana states.

"I've had two loved ones succumb to the ravages of cancer -- my mother passed away in June and my brother-in-law passed away 6 years ago," said Delegate Glenn before she introduced her amendment. "Both of them got to the point where they couldn't eat and their doctors wished they could recommend medical marijuana to stimulate their appetite," continued Delegate Glenn. "I also know what it's like to live in poverty and to not be able to afford desperately needed medicine. People should not be denied access to medical marijuana because they cannot afford it or because they cannot travel to locations where it's dispensed. Of course we should control it and regulate it, but we should not shut out people who need it."

HB 291 was introduced on February 2nd by Maryland House Delegate Dr. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) and is scheduled to be heard at 1pm on Monday, February 28th by both the Health and Government Operations Committee and Judiciary Committee. Delegate Glenn's amendment will be heard by committee members on Monday, as will testimony from patients, doctors and other experts. The amendment aims to regulate qualified patients and primary caregivers as "authorized growers," subject to safety and security requirements as well as inspections by law enforcement.

In preparation for the hearing, ASA has issued a brief report on the importance and necessity of patient cultivation. The report points legislators to certain needs that would go unmet if patients were prevented from cultivating, such as affordability, reliability, consistency and quality. Centralized distribution facilities, on which the Maryland bill exclusively relies, are often out of reach for rural and low-income patients and remain vulnerable to federal interference and closures. New Jersey is the only state that has passed a law denying patients the right to cultivate, and now more than a year later not a single New Jersey patient has access to legal medical marijuana.

Similar bills were introduced last year by Delegate Morhaim and Senator Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), but only the senate bill was passed. Some improvements made last year by the senate were included in this year's bill, however patient advocates are still heavily lobbying for the right to cultivate their own medical marijuana. Barry Considine, a medical marijuana patient from Halethorpe, Maryland, questions the exclusion of patient cultivation: "I know which strain of marijuana works best for my particular medical condition, so why would I be denied the right to grow that medicine myself, especially at a price I can afford?"

The current legislation would replace the 2003 Darrel Putnam Compassionate Use Act, Maryland's current medical marijuana law, which 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. Yet, even though Maryland patients are not currently free from arrest and prosecution, patient cultivation is practiced across the state with little-to-no abuse.

The senate version of Maryland's medical marijuana legislation, SB 308, also introduced on February 2nd by Senator Raskin, will be heard by the Judicial Proceedings Committee at 1pm on Thursday, March 3rd.

Further information:
Delegate Glenn's amendment on patient cultivation: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Maryland_HB291_Amendment.pdf
Text of HB 291: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Maryland_HB291.pdf
ASA Report on Need for Patient Cultivation: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Patient_Cultivation_Report.pdf

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