Maryland Legislators Reignite Effort to Pass Comprehensive State Medical Marijuana Law House Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) holds press conference Friday before committee hearing on bill

February 26, 2014 | Kris Hermes

Annapolis, MD -- A medical marijuana bill introduced earlier this month by Maryland House Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) and co-sponsored by nearly half of the House will be heard Friday at 1pm in the Health and Government Operations Committee. HB 1321 is a bill that would create clear rules for qualified patients and law enforcement, put in place a strictly regulated production and distribution system, and protect patients from discrimination. Del. Glenn will be joined by Maryland patients, parents and advocates to speak about the legislation at a press conference this Friday at 12pm in Room 406 of the House of Delegates Building.

What: Press conference highlighting Del. Cheryl Glenn's comprehensive medical marijuana legislation HB 1321
Featuring: Del. Glenn will be joined by Maryland patients, advocates, and parents, including Paige Figi, whose daughter Charlotte was featured in a CNN documentary on cannabis
When: Friday, February 28th at 12pm
Where: Room 406 of the House of Delegates Building, 6 Bladen St, Annapolis, MD

"We hope that legislators can agree on a program that will bring medical marijuana to Maryland," said Gail Rand, one of the speakers at Friday's press conference and whose son, Logan, suffers from uncontrolled seizures. "It's critically important that patients and caregivers are protected from arrest and prosecution and that they have safe and legal access to medical marijuana." The legislation is supported by both Governor Martin O'Malley and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, who issued a letter of endorsement earlier this week.

"I will not rest until Maryland establishes a medical marijuana program that would allow those patients who suffer and die needlessly to access the drugs that would give them the quality of life they so much deserve to have," said Del. Glenn in a statement issued yesterday.  "Our constituents deserve the same compassion shown in 20 other states, including the District of Columbia, that have up and running medical marijuana programs."

Maryland has struggled over the past few years to pass and implement medical marijuana legislation. In 2003, the Maryland legislature adopted the Darrel Putnam Compassionate Use Act, which was a skeletal medical marijuana law that provided an affirmative defense, but did not prevent patients from being arrested, prosecuted, or having to pay a fine, even if a defendant could prove they were a qualified patient. Last year, the legislature passed HB 1101, which established "Academic Medical Centers" to distribute marijuana to patients, but the untested program failed to gain buy-in from the state's academic institutions.

Maryland Del. Dr. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), the author of last year's measure HB 1101, also introduced his own medical marijuana bill, HB 881, earlier this month, which will be heard in committee on the same day as HB 1321. While both bills accomplish close to the same thing, patient advocates tend to favor Del. Glenn's regulatory approach for several reasons. HB 1321, which is co-sponsored  by 60 House delegates, not only establishes a well-defined, tightly regulated medical marijuana production and distribution system, it also provides a framework for accountability to ensure timely implementation, which has been a problem in other states.

HB 1321 creates strong patient protections against civil discrimination in housing, employment, education, and child custody, which has been a systemic problem in states with weaker medical marijuana laws. By contrast, HB 881 imposes unique and burdensome requirements for physicians, which have been shown to chill participation in other medical marijuana programs and have made it far more difficult for patients to find qualified doctors.

Maryland has not yet been designated as a medical marijuana state, despite its attempts to provide protections for patients. Under current Maryland law, established by last year's HB 1101, patients are supposed to be protected from arrest and prosecution, but only if they are enrolled in an Academic Medical Center program. Since no AMCs have been qualified, thousands of otherwise valid Maryland patients are still at risk of being apprehended by law enforcement.

If legislation is passed by the committee, it will proceed to the full House on March 28th.

Further information:
Legislative information on HB 1321: http://legiscan.com/MD/bill/HB1321/2014
Legislative information on HB 881: http://legiscan.com/MD/bill/HB881/2014
Letter of support from Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown: http://american-safe-access.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/Maryland_Lt_Governor_Letter_of_Support.pdf

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