In Maryland: Another year, another criminal?

Patients left the Senate hearing in Annapolis with an uneasy feeling last Thursday, wondering if they would have to suffer another year of criminal behavior.  What appeared to start off as an optimistic legislative session for patients awaiting the passage of HB291/SB308, has taken on an all too familiar and realistic tone.  Talks of more studies and less action resonate, as working groups are assigned to sort out the details of how cannabis will be brought to the patient community.

Since the passage of the Darrell Putman Act in 2003, patients have returned to Annapolis pleading with the legislature to bring safe access and legitimacy to the patient community, and each year, patients have left Annapolis with nothing, not even their dignity.  Many patients, activists and concerned citizens find it hard to understand how a legislature who has made it clear they agree marijuana is medicine can keep this group of constituents who suffer from debilitating medical conditions in the dark alleys of the black market and in the handcuffs and prison cells of the “criminal justice system.”  Well this year, patients say the buck stops here!  Not only is the criminal prosecution of medical cannabis patients immoral and wrong, it poses greater health risks to the patient in question, and is a drain on our already fragile economic system.

Patients are no longer begging with the legislature, a tactic that has clearly failed in trying to improve the Darrell Putman Act of 2003 over the past eight years.  We are demanding that we are no longer seen as criminals in the eyes of the law.  If patients have to wait at the very least another year for the legislature to figure out safe access to cannabis, and the legislature is as committed as they say they are to the medical cannabis community, then they will repeal the criminal penalties of the Darrell Putman Act this legislative session to ensure patients are no longer criminals in the eyes of Maryland’s law.