Annapolis, MD -- Maryland House Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) introduced a comprehensive medical marijuana bill today that would replace a bill passed last year as a stop-gap measure while the state appointed a workgroup to further study the issue. Del. Glenn's bill, HB 15, the Maryland Medical Marijuana Act, would create clear rules for qualified patients and law enforcement, and put in place a strictly regulated production and distribution system. HB 15 would also protect patients from housing and workplace discrimination, something that the workgroup failed to address.
Last year, the legislature passed SB 308, which laid out minimal protections for patients, but did not set up a means by which patients could legally obtain medical marijuana nor protect patients from arrest and prosecution. Instead, SB 308 commissioned an 18-member "workgroup" to develop a proposal for introduction in the 2012 legislature. On December 9th, the workgroup issued two legislative proposals, supported by an almost equal number of members.
One proposal, which is backed by workgroup chair and Maryland Health & Mental Hygiene Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, focuses on an unprecedented and untested distribution system that relies on "Academic Medical Centers," something that advocates say leaves the state vulnerable to a federal legal challenge. The other proposal, which is backed by Maryland Del. Dr. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), is a near exact replica of a bill that failed to pass out of committee last year because of objections from Secretary Sharfstein and a fiscal note that alleged exorbitant costs to Maryland taxpayers.
"As a legislator dedicated to addressing the needs of medical marijuana patients in Maryland, I am very disappointed in both legislative proposals being offered by the commissioned workgroup," said Del. Glenn. "I am offering a different bill -- what I believe is a common-sense approach to this issue, taking into account not only the needs of medical marijuana patients, but also the needs of the larger communities in which they live."
The laws in almost every medical marijuana state account for the need of patients to be able to cultivate their own medical marijuana, a right that will be established under Del. Glenn's bill, but goes unaddressed by both workgroup proposals. "In places that have ignored the need for patients to cultivate their own medical marijuana -- such as Delaware, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia -- thousands of patients have been forced to go without," continued Del. Glenn. "This is unacceptable and should be a lesson we learn from, not one we repeat in Maryland."
HB 15 will first be heard by the Health and Government Operations & Judiciary Committees. If passed, HB 15 will take effect on June 1st and 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 HB 15 as a sensible way to address medical marijuana in Maryland," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, which has been working with Del. Glenn to develop a comprehensive state law.
HB 308: http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/bills/hb/hb0015f.pdf
Workgroup proposals: http://www.dhmh.state.md.us/pdf/SB0308-MedicalMarijuanaWorkgroupRPT.pdf
ASA one-pager on importance of patient cultivation: http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/patient_cultivation_2011.pdf