Maryland would allow midwives, nurses, dentists and foot doctors to certify patients for medical-marijuana use under a bill the state House of Delegates passed Friday.
Current state law restricts such authority to physicians, but the House voted 110 to 21 to extend it to other types of health-care providers.
The legislation, sponsored by Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), will now move to the Senate for consideration. The change wouldn’t have any immediate practical implications, because the state doesn’t expect to have any dispensaries until at least next year.
Under the bill, the included care providers would be required to have an active, unrestricted license to practice in their fields; be in good standing with their respective boards; and be registered to prescribe controlled substances.
Maryland legalized medical cannabis in 2013, but the state commission tasked with overseeing the industry is still working to issue its first licenses for growers, processors and dispensaries after a series of changes to the program and a flood of applications that require careful vetting. Sales, which will be restricted to those who are certified, is not expected to begin until 2017.
According to the commission, 85 physicians have registered to certify patients for the drug.
Morhaim, who is a physician, has proposed four bills this year that would eliminate criminal penalties for low-level possession of narcotics and increase the state’s focus on treating addiction.
The medical-marijuana bill was among several that was considered by state lawmakers Friday. The House Judiciary Committee also held a hearing on two gun-control bills — one that would prohibit the state from issuing gun permits to people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list and one to require courts, within 48 hours of a conviction, to inform felons and domestic abusers that they must turn over their firearms and verify that they have complied within three days.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) have backed the proposals, improving the odds that their chambers will approve the bills.
But the measures could lead to a standoff with Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association during his 2014 campaign. As a candidate, Hogan pledged that he would not try to roll back Maryland’s gun laws, which are among the most stringent in the nation, but gun-rights advocates said he promised to look for ways to expand access to firearms.
Opponents and Republicans on the panel raised concerns that the watch-list bill violates due-process rights, saying that individuals could be placed on the roster without first having a chance to challenge the designation.
“You cannot deny someone a constitutional right based on their inclusion on a secret list,” said Shannon Alford, the NRA’s legislative liaison for Maryland. “This list is not an appropriate standard to use.”
Del. Luke H. Clippinger (D-Baltimore), who sponsored the bill, said anyone on the watch list who is denied a gun permit would be informed of which federal agency they can contact to try to clear their names. But he acknowledged that some information about how individuals end up on the list may be classified and thus off-limits to the person seeking removal.
Alford noted that prominent non-terrorist figures have appeared on the list, including former anti-apartheid activists and South African president Nelson Mandela, who was removed in 2008; musician Yusuf Islam, previously known as Cat Stevens; and U.S. Rep. Thomas M. McClintock (R-Calif.), who shares a name with a one-time Irish Republican Army leader.
Jen Pauliukonis, legislative director of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, said the threat of terrorists obtaining firearms outweighs mistakes the federal government might make with its watch list.
“You need to balance the greater good with a process where some people might slip through the cracks,” she said. “You have to balance that with the alternative — how many of these people are going to be able to get their hands on so many dangerous weapons.”