ANNAPOLIS, MD — Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed Maryland’s newly passed medical marijuana improvement bill into law today, giving advocates hope that Marylanders may now finally soon see access to medical marijuana in the state and giving Maryland the long-overdue title of a “medical marijuana state.”
“Legal patients in Maryland are now protected from arrest and prosecution, and they will soon be able to get legal medicine from licensed providers,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. “Today’s signature is the culmination of seven years of work by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and our allies.”
The Maryland House of Delegates voted 125-11 earlier this month to adopt House Bill 881, a medical marijuana bill that improves upon a failed medical marijuana law that was adopted by the state last year.
Qualified patients will be able to obtain their medicine from licensed medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTC), which will rely on licensed growers for their supply. Patients will be required to get approval from physicians who are approved by the state and must obtain an identification card before they will be eligible to access an MMTC.
“We’re excited to welcome Maryland as the 21st medical marijuana state,” said Mike Liszewski, Policy Director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), who testified before House and Senate committees. “This bill is a vast improvement over the current law in Maryland and will provide patients with needed protection from arrest and prosecution, and give them a means to safely and legally obtain medical marijuana.”
HB 881 was sponsored by Maryland House Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) and co-sponsored by nearly half of the House. A broad coalition including Americans for Safe Access, industry stakeholders, and Stop the Seizures, a group of parents of children suffering from seizure disorders, worked tirelessly to pass HB 881.
Several different versions of the bill were considered this year, and many amendments were added by Senator Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery) to help patients navigate the program.
Maryland has struggled over the past few years to pass and implement medical marijuana legislation. In 2003, the Maryland legislature adopted the Darrel Putnam Compassionate Use Act, which was a skeletal medical marijuana law that provided an affirmative defense, but did not prevent patients from being arrested, prosecuted, or having to pay a fine, even if a defendant could prove they were a qualified patient.
Last year, the legislature passed HB 1101, which established “Academic Medical Centers” to distribute marijuana to patients, but the untested program failed to gain buy-in from the state’s academic institutions, and no patients were ever enrolled in the program.
HB 881 establishes a new form of distribution. According to the new law, the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission, which was established under last year’s legislation, will regulate treatment centers, characterized as an entity that “acquires, possesses, processes, transfers, transports, sells, distributes, dispenses, or administers marijuana, products containing food, tinctures, aerosols, oils, or ointments, or educational materials for use by a qualifying patient or a caregiver.”
The Governor also signed into law Monday a bill that decriminalizes the possession of up to ten grams of marijuana.