For years, patients in Maryland with intractable pain, chronic diseases or terminal diseases have lobbied lawmakers to legalize the medical use of marijuana to ease their symptoms. And for years the state has been torn between compassion and caution about whether the purported benefits of medical marijuana outweigh the potential dangers of a drug that has not been subjected to rigorous scientific testing to determine its safety and effectiveness.
As a result, Maryland law on the issue has remained an inconsistent jumble. In 2003, the legislature approved a law allowing people charged with possession of small amounts of marijuana to claim “medical necessity” as a defense and, if they convince a judge their case has merit, to pay a $100 fine rather than go to jail. But even under that law a conviction still leaves patients with a criminal record, and, paradoxically, despite having proven their claim in court, it is still illegal for them to buy the drug.
Last week, Maryland moved a step closer to resolving that dilemma when Gov. Martin O’Malley withdrew his opposition to a bill that would allow doctors and nurses to dispense marijuana for medical use through academic medical research centers such as John Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center. Mr. O’Malley refused to support medical marijuana legislation last year after Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler expressed concerns about possible liability for those who dispense the drug under federal law.
– Read the entire article at Baltimore Sun.