ANNAPOLIS --- The Maryland Senate approved a bill 45-1 after its third reading that would allow seriously ill Marylanders to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their doctors. The amended bill will now go to the House for consideration, where a similar bill has already been approved.
SB 923, introduced by Sen. Jamie Raskin and co-sponsored by 12 other senators, would allow seriously ill residents suffering from certain qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Possession limits and regulations governing cultivation and dispensary facilities would be determined by the state prior to implementation. A companion bill, HB 881, was co-sponsored by 80 delegates and approved overwhelmingly by the House earlier this year and is waiting for consideration by the Senate.
In April 2013, Gov. O'Malley signed a bill into law that allows residents with serious illnesses to obtain medical marijuana via state-regulated programs administrated by academic medical research centers. The law also created the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission to oversee the program. To date, no research programs have been approved, and no patients have obtained medicine or been protected from arrest under the law.
"The Senate should be commended for bringing Maryland patients one step closer to finding real relief with medical marijuana," said Rachelle Yeung, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Marijuana has been proven to help treat a variety of medical conditions, and seriously ill Marylanders should not have to fear arrest or risk their safety to obtain the medicine that works for them. We are hopeful that the House will agree with them, and we can finally begin to implement an effective medical marijuana program."
According to a survey conducted in September by Public Policy Polling, 72% of Maryland voters support allowing seriously and terminally ill patients to safely obtain and use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. The full results are available at http://www.mpp.org/MDpoll.
There are currently 20 states and the District of Columbia that allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana. In addition to Maryland, 14 states and Puerto Rico are considering medical marijuana bills in the current legislative sessions.