The Maryland Senate approved a medical marijuana bill Monday that Gov. Martin O’Malley has indicated he will sign into law.
By a vote of 42-4, the state Senate approved the bipartisan measure, already passed in the House of Delegates by a vote of 108-28 last month. Maryland Health Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein supports the measure as well.
“This marks a major step forward for Maryland medical marijuana patients and their families,” said Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement after the proposal passed in the state Senate. “The Assembly's overwhelming support for this important legislation reflects that of the people of Maryland and the nation as a whole. The time has come to allow seriously ill people to obtain and use medical marijuana if their doctors believe it will help them.”
The House version of the legislation, HB 1101, was introduced by Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), an emergency room physician and longtime advocate of legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
The legislation allows approved academic medical research centers to apply to a state commission to “operate state-regulated programs that provide patients with marijuana grown by the federal government or state-licensed growers,” according to the Marijuana Policy Project synopsis of the bill.
“We hope the state's academic medical centers will take action and apply for the program so they can begin meeting the needs of Maryland residents suffering from debilitating medical conditions,” Riffle said. “Individuals suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other serious illnesses should not be forced to obtain their medicine in the underground market.”
State analysts have said the Maryland program is not expected to be “up and running” for another years, according to reporting by the Washington Post. According to NORML, a marijuana advocacy organization, 19 states, as well as the District of Columbia, currently have medical marijuana laws in effect.