Cumberland Times-News

February 3, 2013

Lawmakers again push medical marijuana bill

Ethan Rosenberg
Capital News Service

— ANNAPOLIS — Despite coming up short the last two years, several House legislators are trying again to legalize medical marijuana, while others are attempting to tighten restrictions on its synthetic counterparts.

Delegate Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore, plans to reintroduce the Maryland Medical Marijuana Act to the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would allow the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana through compassion centers for patients who have an ongoing relationship with a physician.

“People are suffering every day in the state of Maryland, and they are being subjected to going out on the streets to get the relief we should be providing,” Glenn said.

The General Assembly has a history of diluting legislation that would implement a broad medical marijuana system in Maryland.

During the 2011 session, the Senate introduced a bill that would have allowed the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene to authorize marijuana growers and to create a registration program authorizing distribution facilities for medical purposes. Glenn tried similar legislation in the House last year.

Neither bill was passed in its complete form. The Senate bill was signed into law, but was gutted down to an affirmative legal defense for patients suffering from a debilitating condition. The House bill was watered down to an affirmative defense for caregivers, but never received a vote in the Senate.

The House legislation defined caregivers as an immediate family member or domestic partner of a patient whose debilitating condition prohibits them from getting their own treatment. Glenn is sponsoring the reintroduction of the affirmative defense for caregivers as separate legislation this year.

“What I want to do is have a doctor-patient relationship rather than a dealer-patient relationship,” said Delegate Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, who is co-sponsoring the affirmative defense bill. “For many people, (medical marijuana) is completely not appropriate, but for some it is, just like any medicine. It’s not benign, but neither is penicillin.”

Morhaim believes that if Maryland does not broaden its position on medical marijuana, residents suffering from severe cases of cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and other chronic illnesses may choose to seek treatment elsewhere.