Maryland House Approves Legislation Easing Court Penalities for Medical Marijuana Use
The Maryland House yesterday voted 80-56 to approve a bill ( HB 0504) that would allow a person who claims to possess marijuana for medicinal use to use medical necessity as a lead defense, the Washington Post reports. The bill stipulates that defendants who can prove to a judge or jury that they used marijuana "exclusively for medical reasons" would be subject to a $100 fine, as opposed to the current penalty of a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. "This is a huge victory for cancer and AIDS patients because it will keep them out of jail," bill sponsor Del. Donald Murphy (R) said (Mosk, Washington Post, 3/26). Some people with cancer or AIDS find that smoking marijuana suppresses nausea and stimulates their appetites (Baltimore Sun, 3/24). However, opponents of medical marijuana legislation say that such measures "pave the way for the drug's legalization." Several Maryland lawmakers also questioned whether the scope of the measure was too narrow because the bill does not create a legal way for someone to purchase, sell or grow the marijuana. Murphy said that the priority of the bill is to "eliminate the threat and fear of jail" for those who use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The proposal will now head to the Senate, where similar measures have "been coolly received" in past years (Washington Post, 3/26).
More Marijuana Legislation
The Maryland House Judiciary Committee is also considering two other bills in support of medical marijuana. One bill (HB 1222) would allow "certain individuals who have certain medical conditions" to possess marijuana and related drug paraphernalia "under certain circumstances." The measure would allow individuals "related" to medical marijuana users to also possess marijuana and related paraphernalia under certain circumstances and states that certain laws related to drug paraphernalia "do not apply to the medical use of marijuana." The bill also would require the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to issue registry cards to individuals qualified to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The other bill (HB 24) applies to court cases involving marijuana possession and requires courts to "consider as a mitigating factor any evidence of medical necessity" of marijuana in such cases (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/15).