Frederick County Delegate Patrick Hogan votes 'yes.'
A medical marijuana bill passed the House of Delegates on Monday. The vote was 108-28, with Frederick County Delegate Patrick Hogan casting a "yes" vote. "I've seen the evidence that people can get some relief from this, people who are suffering from some of the difficult, debilitating diseases, and this can provide relief from their pain and suffering," he says.
The measure now heads to the State Senate where it's also expected to pass.
It would allow academic research centers to set up medical marijuana programs, which would be regulated by a state commission under the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The medical marijuana programs would determine which patients receive the pot, how much and for how long. They would also required to monitor the outcomes.
The marijuana would come from the federal government, or state licensed growers.
Opponents say bills like this would make it easier from some people to get marijuana by claiming its for medical use, but those individuals really intend to get high. Delegate Hogan says that won't happen if this measure becomes law. "It's sets up the proper safeguards, and it's done through the academic centers through a pretty controlled way," he says.
Supporters say it could take several years before these programs are up and running.
The medical marijuana bill also has the support of Governor Martin O'Malley, and DHMH Secretary Joshua Sharfstein.
Even if it passes, marijuana will still remain a controlled dangerous substance under federal and therefore illegal. But Delegate Hogan says it looks like the federal government is more interested in going after states which decriminalize marijuana. "If the federal government ramps up its enforcement of federal marijuana laws, then the program can be suspended," he says.
Last week, the State Senate approved a bill which makes possession of ten grams or less, the equivalent of two joints, a misdemeanor. The Maryland Association of State's Attorneys' has come out strongly against that, claiming it legalizes pot. Frederick County State's Attorney Charlie Smith calls marijuana a "social evil."