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Despite its promising beginnings, the medical cannabis program in Maryland has suffered since its implementation in 2013. For the past four years, Maryland's medical cannabis program has been subjected to repeated legislative changes, an extensive public debate over establishing a regulatory structure, and a large applicant pool for licenses. Patients are still awaiting access.
It is now possible that these patients may be forced to wait even longer. Several bills have been introduced in the Maryland Senate that could postpone a functioning system for distribution of medical cannabis even longer. For many who are eligible to use medical cannabis, each day without medicine can be both costly and painful.
Maryland already ranks slower than any other state in starting a medical cannabis program after initial legislative approval. There is no question that these patients have waited too long to receive the care they deserve. If approved, several bills in the Maryland Legislature could further delay and frustrate patient access to medical cannabis.
SB 267/HB 487 requires the establishment of a sixteen member commission, that while professionally diverse and represents varied interests associated with medical cannabis industry including patients, physicians, legislators and members of law enforcement, could take additional time to establish and to function effectively. Despite approval to begin consider grower applications in July of 2016, SB 1038 gives the Commission until June of 2018 to implement these licenses.
SB 999/HB1443 allows the Maryland legislature to postpone the issuing medical cannabis licenses until October of 2017. The initial number of licenses would not be able to be adjusted until 2019. Further, SB 999 leaves regulations that would govern patient ID cards to be developed, which could add additional weeks or months to the already elongated waiting process.
SB 999 does have commendable aspects. It seeks to diversify the medical cannabis industry by ensuring that minorities and women are well represented in medical cannabis businesses. Diversity in any business is incredibly important, and the medical cannabis industry should be no different. However, until the state determines a fair way to allocate business, the lives of patients should not be put on hold.
Americans for Safe Access supports any and all efforts to reduce the time patients must wait to access care.
Click here to contact your Maryland Representative and tell them #NoMoreDelays