Maryland Senate Passes Improved Medical Marijuana Bill, House Falls Short
Annapolis, MD -- The Maryland State Senate voted 35-12 today in favor of a new medical marijuana law. A Senate judiciary committee passed the bill earlier this week by 7-4 vote. Advocates are calling the Senate version, SB 627, an improvement over the House version, HB 712, because it provides explicit protection from arrest and prosecution for registered patients, increases patient possession limits from two to six ounces in a 30-day period, and establishes an identification card program. However, despite persistent requests from patients and advocates, the Senate failed to include a provision allowing patients to cultivate their own medical marijuana.
The Senate bill will now go to the full House for consideration, but they cannot amend the bill and because the Maryland legislature ends its session at midnight on Monday, passage seems unlikely. Nonetheless, advocates are pleased with the progress. "We're excited that the legislature has moved this far in making long-overdue changes to Maryland's inadequate medical marijuana law," said Caren Woodson, Government Affairs Director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "We will be eager to return next session with an improved legislative proposal that better meets needs of patients."
Both Senate and House bills were introduced on February 5th by Sen. Jamie Raskin (Montgomery County) and Delegate Dr. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), respectively. The House bill, HB 712, was heard jointly on February 26th by the House Judiciary and House Government Operations Committees. But it failed to pass out of committee, and a bipartisan working group was appointed, instead, to address issues raised by patients and committee members. Now, if anything is to pass the House this session, it will be the Senate version of the bill.
The Darrel Putnam Compassionate Use Act, Maryland's current medical marijuana law, allows patients to use a medical necessity or affirmative defense in court, but does not prevent them from being arrested and prosecuted. The court can impose a $100 fine even if a patient provides sufficient evidence of medical use. Several court cases involving Maryland patients have received mainstream media coverage over the past few months, illustrating the need to improve Maryland law. "We will continue to work with the Maryland legislature to pass a bill we can all be proud of," said Woodson. "Patients have waited too long not to get it right this time."
Senate version of Maryland’s proposed medical marijuana law, SB 627: http://mlis.state.md.us/2010rs/bills/sb/sb0627t.pdf
ASA Legislative Memo re Maryland proposed law: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Maryland_Memo.pdf
Darrel Putnam Compassionate Use Act: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Maryland_Medical_Marijuana_Law.pdf
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