Maryland’s first legal protections for patients were established in 2003 with with HB 702, the Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act, which created an affirmative defense for patients possessing less than one ounce of marijuana. This allowed defendants prosecuted for use or possession of marijuana to put forth evidence of medical necessity and physician approval, which would be counted as a mitigating factor, reducing the maximum penalty to a fine not exceeding $100.
In May 2011, SB 308 was signed into law, which removed criminal penalties for patients who met certain specified conditions and provided an affirmative defense for these patients. In addition, a Work Group was created to develop a model program to “facilitate patient access to marijuana for medical purposes”. The medical marijuana patients must have been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition that is “severe and resistant to conventional medicine” to assert the affirmative defense. However, the affirmative defense did not apply to patients using marijuana in public or in possession of more than 1 ounce of marijuana. In addition, this bill did not protect patients from arrest.
In 2013, HB 180 and HB 1101 were signed into law. HB 180 provided an affirmative defense to caregivers of medical marijuana patients. HB 1101 allowed for academic medical centers to investigate use of medical marijuana for medical purposes.
In 2014, HB 881/SB 923, were approved and signed into law. These bills tasked the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission with developing regulations for a patient registry and identification card, dispensary licensing, setting fees and possession limits. Qualifying patients are allowed to possess up to a 30 day supply of medical marijuana and licensed dispensaries are allowed to distribute marijuana grown by a maximum of 15 licensed cultivators. However, patients and caregivers are not permitted to grow their own cannabis plants. As of June 2016, the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission is authorized to issue dispensary licenses to meet the needs of qualifying patients who are part of the patient registry. In addition, the Commission will issue yearly requests for applications from academic medical centers to run medical marijuana compassionate use programs.
In 2015, Senate Bill 517 was passed, vetoed, and the veto overridden. SB 517 decriminalized the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. House Bill 490 was also signed into law in 2015, which further updates the law, including changing the nomenclature of “marijuana” to “cannabis”.
In 2016, House Bill 104 was signed into law, and expands the list of healthcare providers that may recommend medical use of marijuana to patients. The list is expanded to include dentists, podiatrists, and nurse practitioner. This will take effect in June 2017.
HB 702/SB 502 (2003) - The Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act, which created an affirmative defense for patients possessing less than one ounce of marijuana that reduced convictions to a misdemeanor offense with a maximum $100 fine.
SB 308 (2011) - Recognized specific medical conditions and remove the misdemeanor penalty, but not the $100 fine.
HB 1101 (2013) - Allowed “Academic Medical Centers” to conduct medical cannabis research studies and established the Natalie M. LaParade Medical Marijuana Commission to create regulations.
HB 180 (2013) - Expanded the affirmative defense to caregivers
HB 881/SB 923 (2014) - Comprehensive medical cannabis program that expanded and clarified legal protections for patients, caregivers, and physicians, and created a distribution system. Registered patients and their designated caregivers will be allowed to obtain and possess up to a 30-day supply of cannabis. Personal cultivation is prohibited.
HB 490 (2015) – Revised HB 881/SB 923
SB 517 (2015) - Decriminalized the possession of marijuana paraphernalia
HB 104 (2016) – Allows dentists, podiatrists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, in addition to physicians, to issue written certifications to qualifying patients.