Sen. David Brinkley, center, and Del. Dan Morhaim, right, co-sponsors… (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy…)
Hoping to make Maryland the 15th state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana, legislators introduced a pair of bills Tuesday in the General Assembly that would let doctors approve access to marijuana for their patients and sanction dispensaries, and even pharmacies, to distribute the drug.
The legislation would allow the use of marijuana by patients who have a "debilitating medical condition," such as seizures, severe chronic pain or severe nausea as a result of cancer treatment. They would have to register with the state and obtain marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries and pharmacies that might be interested in supplying it.
"The overarching goal is to make medical marijuana available, as would be any other serious drug to help patients, with the same protections and judicious use," said Del. Dan Morhaim, a Democrat from Baltimore County and an internist and emergency medical physician, who sponsored the legislation in the House of Delegates. Sen. David Brinkley, a Republican from Frederick, is the bill's sponsor in the Senate.
Patients would need approval from doctors with whom they have a long-standing relationship and would not be permitted to grow marijuana on their own.
Morhaim said those two elements make Maryland's measure more stringent than laws passed recently in other states, which allow people to grow their own pot and have come under pressure from critics who say doctors permit use of the drug too easily.
Maryland is the latest state to try to increase access to marijuana following the Obama administration's loosening of federal policy on marijuana enforcement last year.
The measure builds on a little-known 2003 Maryland law that allows defendants charged with marijuana possession leniency if they can prove medical necessity.
That law, however, does medical patients a disservice, said Sen. Jamie B. Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat, during a news conference Tuesday attended by supporters of the legislation, including two people who said they used the drug to cope with their illnesses.
"We are implicitly inviting people who are sick to go out and find illegal drug dealers to procure what for them is medicine," he said. "That is not acceptable in a civilized society."
Debby Miran, 55, of Towson said she has struggled for years with leukemia, and smoking marijuana helped her cope for four months after a bone-marrow transplant. After the transplant, she lost her ability to taste, suffered severe nausea and at one point weighed less than 100 pounds. Marijuana was the only thing that worked, she said.
"My goal was not to get high, but rather to stimulate my appetite," she said. "There are many Marylanders suffering a variety of illnesses. I know; I've been there. We should make medical marijuana available to them."
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