Supporters of legalizing marijuana for medical uses put forward a new approach in the Senate this morning, voting on a proposal that would allow sick people to use their illness as a defense if arrested for smoking pot.
The re-written bill also calls for a study group to determine the best way for the state to establish a limited medical marijuana program. The plan involves academic institutions applying to Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene inorder to set up programs where the drug is distributed to patients.
“The politicians have caught up with the public,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat who is a bill sponsor. “People believe the seriously ill should have access to marijuana if they need it for therapeutic proposes.”
Currently, those who can show they are using marijuana to relieve pain are subject to a misdemeanor and $100 fine. The new proposal would decriminalize smoking pot or having paraphernalia for the ill, as long as a doctor could attest to the need.
It would still be illegal to sell marijuana to sick people. And users would have to go to the black market to secure the drugs.
The bill would protect doctors by saying they can not be reprimanded for providing an opinion that a patient would benefit from marijuana use.
A broader measure to establish a full-blown medical marijuana program in Maryland lost momentum earlier in the session when newly appointed DHMH Secretary Joshua Sharfstein opposed the effort in a committee hearing.
Sharfstein said he has “no position” on the idea of a new legal defense for patients using marijuana.
He does support studying a limited medical marijuana program with an eye toward creating the legal framework for it during the 2012 legislative session.
– Article originally from The Baltimore Sun.