Maryland Becomes “15th And A Half” Medical Marijuana State

Governor O’Malley of Maryland signed SB 308 yesterday, making Maryland the “15th and a half” medical marijuana state. While medical marijuana is not technically legal, the new bill provides a more robust medical marijuana defense for those accused, and removed the misdemeanor conviction those accused faced. From Americans For Safe Access:

“The patient community welcome improvements to Maryland’s medical marijuana law,” said Kristen Ford, Field Director with Americans for Safe Access, the country’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group. “But, because patients are still forced to undergo arrest and criminal prosecution and may sustain punitive fines, the law falls short of the basic protections offered in all other medical marijuana states.”

420timesmarijuana hands small Maryland Becomes 15th And A Half Medical Marijuana StateSB 308 had previously been a more robust bill, protecting qualified patients from arrest and prosecution and establishing a system of licensed cultivation and distribution, but was whittled down due to objections from the new administration’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and House committee members. In order to get SB 308 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee, where several similar bills had died over the past 7 years, legislators adopted several restrictive amendments.

For example, SB 308 now caps possession amounts at one ounce, down from 6 ounces in previous versions of the bill, and excludes patients above the one ounce limit from using the affirmative defense. The amendments also deny an affirmative defense to patients consuming their medication in public. “It’s shameful that the Maryland legislature wants to treat medical marijuana patients like criminals by condoning their arrest and excluding some patients from an affirmative defense, still leaving them vulnerable to conviction and a punitive fine,” continued Ford. “Nevertheless, we will continue to work with the health department and the legislature to craft a more patient-friendly bill next year.”

SB 308 requires DHMH to convene a Work Group to “develop a State-specific proposal, including draft legislation, for providing access to marijuana to patients in the State for medical purposes.” A report to the legislature will be due by year’s end, and the program must be up-and-running by January 2013. “This bare-bones law is just a stop-gap measure,” continued Ford. “Now the difficult work begins in finding consensus on a more comprehensive and protective bill.”

Further information:
SB 308: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Maryland_SB308.pdf

While not as much as advocates would have hoped for, small positive steps always lead to ultimate goals. Any improvement in state medical marijuana laws means more relief for more patients. We hope the state can have a full medical marijuana program by 2013, but the wheels of government move slow. We must keep the pressure on the legislature, so if you live in Maryland, let your representatives and senators know how you feel about medical marijuana.

– Joe Klare

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