ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A measure to get Maryland's ineffective medical-marijuana law working cleared the Maryland House of Delegates by a large margin Monday.
The House voted 123-13 for the bill, which now goes to the state Senate.
The measure makes significant changes to a state law enacted last year. For example, it allows certified doctors to recommend that their patients receive marijuana for medicinal purposes. The current Maryland legal framework requires academic medical centers to run the programs, but none has stepped forward.
"This bill is only for those patients who have relationships with their doctors who have debilitating illnesses, so it's very, very tightly restricted," said Del. Cheryl Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat who has been a leading co-sponsor of the bill.
Doctors would need to be on staff at a hospital or hospice program and register with a state commission to make marijuana available to a sick patient.
"I believe physicians who are in the fields where it's appropriate are going to choose to do this, because they want to help their patients, and this is a way that they can do it without having their patients be turned into criminals and also for the physicians," said Del. Dan Morhaim, a Baltimore County Democrat and doctor. "They're protected by the bill in terms of recommending this to patients that there be no punishment from any board."
The measure would limit the number of marijuana growers for medical purposes in the state to 10. Growers also would dispense the drug after going through a careful regulatory process by a state commission, which will draft regulations by Sept. 15.
Morhaim said he's confident businesses will step forward to do what academia has not, and he said some have contacted him.
"There are interested parties that are responsible and have the resources to do this," Morhaim said.
The measure also includes reporting requirements. A certified physician will have to submit an annual report that includes the number of patients served, the county of residents of each patient and any medical condition for which medical marijuana is recommended. A summary of the clinical outcomes also will be required.
A physician also will be required to renew registration with the state commission every two years. The commission must grant or deny renewal based on the physician's performance in complying with regulations.
Separately, the Senate passed a measure last week to decriminalize marijuana possession of 10 grams or less. The Senate passed a similar bill last year, but the measure died in a House committee. On Monday, a marijuana decriminalization measure was on a House Judiciary Committee voting list, but it was not brought up for a vote.
It was unclear what chances the legislation had for passage before the session ends on April 7.