Maryland General Assembly Approves Measure Reducing Penalties for Medically Necessary Marijuana Possession
The Maryland Senate yesterday approved 29-17 a measure that would reduce penalties for seriously ill people who use marijuana for medical purpose, including people with HIV/AIDS, the Baltimore Sun reports (Craig, Baltimore Sun, 3/27). Marijuana can be used to ease nausea, pain and other symptoms commonly associated with terminal or chronic illnesses (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/17). The bill, which passed the state House two weeks ago, would set a fine of $100 for using marijuana due to "medical necessity." In other circumstances, marijuana possession carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine (Montgomery/Whitlock, Washington Post, 3/27). Supporters of the bill had hoped to pass a measure to decriminalize marijuana possession for seriously ill patients who enrolled in a state pilot program (Baltimore Sun, 3/27). A House committee "completely rewrote" that bill, which would have legalized marijuana for cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and other patients. The new bill, which the House approved 73-62, uses medical necessity as a defense against prosecution for possession charges and allows for reduced penalties. If the bill becomes law, Maryland would become the first state to "single out" seriously ill patients who use marijuana for "relaxed sanctions," the Washington Post reports (Washington Post, 3/27). The bill now goes to Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R), who has said he is "leaning toward signing" the measure (Baltimore Sun, 3/27). Eight other states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington -- have laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.