On May 10 Maryland became the 15th state (16th, including the District of Columbia) to legalize medicinal marijuana when Governor Martin O’Malley (D) signed Senate Bill (SB) 308 into law. However, despite being ‘legal’ in technical terms, patients can still be arrested and fined for using their medicine, as reported by medi-pot activist group Americans for Safe Access.   

 

The Maryland General Assembly previously passed SB 308 in April with the intention of augmenting the state’s current ‘medical marijuana affirmative defense’ law passed in 2003, the Maryland Darrel Putnam Compassionate Act. That law only allows for medical necessity defense in court – patients could still receive a misdemeanor conviction on their records as well as a $100 fine.

 

SB 308 removes the misdemeanor conviction, but it’s a compromise at best as a legal pot patient can still be arrested, still have to undergo court proceedings and still be fined one hundred bucks.  

 

Actually SB 308 is a compromise-within-a-compromise as originally it was going to prevent patients from being arrested as well as allow for the creation of dispensaries to effectively distribute medi-pot. But opposition from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), and more importantly, objections raised by the state’s House Judiciary Committee, forced proponents to amend the bill or see it die in committee.

 

Before it was stripped down, SB 308 was going to allow patients to possess up to six ounces (currently they can possess one ounce). Now, if a patient is arrested with more than an ounce, he/she cannot use the medical necessity defense, nor can it be utilized if a patient is busted for smoking in public.

 

However, there is room for optimism, as SB 308 mandates the DHMH “develop a State-specific proposal, including draft legislation, for providing access to marijuana to patients in the State for medical purposes.” The DHMH must submit a medi-pot report to the General Assembly by the end of 2011, with the intention of implementing the new medicinal marijuana program statewide by January 2013. 

 

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