Md. Senate passes measure to ease access to medical marijuana

The Maryland Senate voted Thursday to revise the state’s relatively new medical marijuana law to make it more workable and broaden access to the drug for patients who need it.

The measure would allow certifying physicians approved by the state’s medical marijuana commission to give written certification to patients to obtain the drug for medical purposes.

The bill – sponsored by Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery) and others — differs in some respects from a medical marijuana bill that passed the House. Among other things, the Senate version lifted the House-imposed cap on growers. The House bill, sponsored by Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore), set the number of licensed growers at 10.

But Raskin said members of the House and Senate were already moving informally toward a version that would likely meet with approval in a conference committee.

“SB923 is designed to make medical marijuana truly, actually accessible to the patients who need it,” Raskin told the Senate during Wednesday’s debate. “We know that there are thousands of people in this state who are suffering from AIDs, leukemia, cancer, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis and other severe, debilitating and chronic conditions for which marijuana is indicated, according to their physicians.”

The state effectively decriminalized possession of marijuana for medical purposes in 2011. Last year, the General Assembly passed a medical marijuana bill that restricted the program to academic medical centers. But those institutions declined to participate, Raskin said, because they stated concerns about the loss of funds from the federal government, which continues to ban the drug.

The Senate’s vote Thursday was 45 to 1; the House passed its version 126 to 10 March 13.

The General Assembly is also considering measures that would legalize marijuana or decriminalize possession of small amounts.

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