Comprehensive Maryland Medical Marijuana Bill to be Heard by House Committees Today

March 08, 2013

Annapolis, MD -- A comprehensive statewide medical marijuana bill introduced in January by Maryland House Delegate and Deputy Majority Whip Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) is scheduled to be heard jointly by the House Judiciary Committee and Health and Government Operations Committees at 2pm today. The hearing will feature Dr. David Bearman, a clinician with over 40 years of providing drug abuse treatment and prevention and a recognized national expert on medical marijuana, as well as Irv Rosenfeld, an author and patient who, as part of the federal government's Investigational New Drug Program, receives monthly shipments of medical marijuana from a government-licensed farm at the University of Mississippi.

HB302, the Maryland Medical Marijuana Act, would replace a bill passed in 2011 as a stop-gap measure while the state further studied the issue. Specifically, HB302 would create clear rules for qualified patients and law enforcement, put in place a strictly regulated production and distribution system, and protect patients from housing and workplace discrimination. Current criminal penalties for marijuana use and possession would be repealed for qualified patients that meet certain requirements.

What: Joint hearing on HB302, Maryland Medical Marijuana Act, by House Judiciary, House Health and Government Operations Committees
When: Friday, March 8th at 2pm
Where: Joint Hearing Room of the Legislative Services Building, 90 State Cir., Annapolis, MD 21401

In 2011, the Maryland legislature passed SB308, which removed a $100 fine for possession and laid out minimal protections for patients, but did not set up a means by which they could legally obtain medical marijuana nor protect them from arrest and prosecution. Instead, SB308 commissioned an 18-member "workgroup" to develop a legislative proposal. Unfortunately, the workgroup recommendations failed to fully address the needs of patients in Maryland and focused instead on legislation that would implement an unprecedented and untested distribution system that relies on "Academic Medical Centers," something advocates say would leave the state vulnerable to a federal legal challenge.

Wanting to address patient needs more effectively, Del. Glenn introduced HB302. "It only takes the sad experience of losing a loved one due to the ravages of cancer, not because of the illness itself, but simply because the person could no longer eat or drink, to make one realize that if we can help relieve suffering and give dignity and productivity back to patients, then we have a responsibility to do that in the State of Maryland," said Del. Glenn in a prepared statement.

The two other legislative proposals aimed at addressing medical marijuana in Maryland, HB1100 and HB1101, have been introduced by Del. Dr. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) and will be heard the same day. However, advocates say that Del. Morhaim's bills leave too much authority to an appointed commission similar to the workgroup set up by Morhaim's HB308 in 2011. HB1100 and HB1101 also rely too heavily on untested models of medical marijuana distribution, impose onerous requirements on physicians, and fail to adequately protect patient privacy, say advocates.

If passed, HB302 will require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to adopt regulations on or before September 1st of this year. "We hope that the legislature will recognize the virtue of Delegate Glenn's approach and pass HB302 as a sensible way to address medical marijuana in Maryland," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which has been working with Del. Glenn to develop a comprehensive state law.

Further information:
HB302, the Maryland Medical Marijuana Act: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2013RS/bills/hb/hb0302f.pdf
ASA Fact Sheet on HB302: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/HB302_Fact_Sheet.pdf

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