Wednesday, December 04, 2013 11:17 PM
Published on: Thursday, April 11, 2013
By Brian Compere
ANNAPOLIS - On the last day of this year’s session of the Maryland General Assembly on Monday, legislators passed a bill legalizing the use of marijuana for certain medical purposes with a 42-4 Senate vote.
The bill, which Gov. Martin O’Malley will likely sign based on his support thus far, allows academic medical centers to administer marijuana already prescribed by doctors to patients as part of research programs.
The Maryland House of Delegates had previously advanced the measure on a 108-28 vote. Del. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery) said he had expected the measure to pass despite controversy surrounding marijuana-related issues.
“I wasn’t surprised that it passed,” Frosh said. “I mean, the Senate passed a much broader bill related to marijuana and did it on a bipartisan basis with overwhelming support, so the House has been the obstacle and once it got to the House floor, I wasn’t surprised that it passed.”
During the session, legislators also passed a bill that lowers the penalties for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana from a criminal offense with maximum penalties of a year in prison and a $1,000 fine to a civil offense with a maximum penalty of a $100 fine.
Del. Cheryl Glenn, a sponsor of the bill passed Monday, had sponsored another measure, which would have addressed legalization of marijuana for medical purposes with a stronger approach, but she withdrew it after it received an unfavorable report from the Health and Government Operations committee. However, Frosh said he anticipates similarly stronger measures in the near future.
“I think this probably isn’t the last word on the subject for the next five years and I think the advocates will keep pushing forward,” Frosh said.
According to testimony from Joshua Sharfstein, the state’s secretary of health and mental hygiene, eleven members of a 2011 workgroup – including the oncologist, rehabilitation medicine specialist and addiction medicine specialist on the panel – convened in 2011 to evaluate medical marijuana supported the bill that this week became the state’s medical marijuana law.
Sharfstein announced in early March the administration had changed its position on medical marijuana from declining to support any medical marijuana bills proposed in the 2012 session to supporting the measure from this past session.