by Andrew Nappi
Maryland became the 19th State to legalize marijuana for medical use Thursday when Governor Martin O’Malley signed the “Medical Marijuana – Academic Medical Centers – Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission” act into law.
Congress and the president claim the constitutional authority to prohibit weed. The Supreme Court concurs. But sharing an opinion on something doesn’t necessarily make it a fact. You can claim you are a unicorn, but you’re not. Clearly, the Constitution delegates no power of marijuana regulation to the feds. And the so-called war on drugs rests on the same legal authority as all of the other modern-day undeclared wars.
So, more and more states continue to do exactly what they should do when the federal government tries exercise power it does not legitimately possess.
With Maryland’s new law, 19 states have done just that, legalizing medical marijuana. That wave continues to build, with even more state legislatures considering medicinal marijuana legislation in the 2013 session, and more likely to follow suit.
Better known by its shorter numerical designation, HB 1101, and introduced by Delgate Dan Morhaim, the new law allows academic medical research centers to create and implement programs to dispense marijuana to sick patients.
Under HB 1101 marijuana will only be provided through academic medical centers, more commonly known as teaching hospitals. Critics of the bill argue with hospitals having a choice to dispense or not dispense, some will opt to not participate. The new law also allows the governor to suspend the program if state employees fall under jeopardy of prosecution by the federal government.
The current start date for implementation is 2016, another sore point with the bill’s critics.
Despite the bill’s inability to grant every constituency’s wish, list it is viewed overall as a necessary step forward. The federal government forbids any marijuana use, even under a restrictive program like the one Maryland will implement. Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey said any resistance to the unconstitutional federal policy undermines the federal government’s position.
“Obviously, this bill doesn’t allow patients the free access to marijuana for treatment of medical conditions that we would like to see. But it is a step forward. Each state that refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the federal prohibition in any way makes it that much more difficult for the federal government to enforce its unconstitutional policy,” he said. “As for the governor’s power to suspend the program, I just don’t see it happening. He would look pretty foolish all of a sudden telling patients successfully treating pain or other conditions with cannabis, ‘Sorry, you’re out of luck now. D.C. called and said we have to return you to your state of suffering.’ That wouldn’t go over well. I see expansion of the policy down the road as the more likely scenario.”
Hospitals will be required to specify the medical conditions treated with marijuana and establish criteria under which patients would be admitted to the program. Concessions to privacy are also part of the bill, as participating hospitals will be required to provide the state department of health with data on both patients and caregivers. This data will also be required to be available to law enforcement. Licensed growers will be able to sell only to participating centers.
Dan Morhaim, the bill’s sponsor, serves as a board-certified physician, logging over 30 years experience as an emergency room physician and internist. In a February 21,2012 editorial, the Baltimore Sun endorsed Morhaim’s plan saying, “With medical marijuana legal for medical use, someone has to grow it, someone has to distribute it and someone has to supervise the system. We think the Morhaim-endorsed plan, which will license growers and distributors under the supervision of medical professionals, is the most practical approach.”
“I’ve long said Maryland should replace the dealer-patient relationship with the doctor-patient relationship,” Morhaim said. “This law gives us a chance to do that.”
Morhaim’s credentials as an academic, who is on the faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and on the faculty at the University of Maryland Medical School gave added weight and credibility to the bill.
In support of HB 1101, HB0180, the ”Medical Marijuana – Caregiver – Affirmative Defense” sponsored by Delegate Cheryl D. Glenn in the House and Jamie Raskin in the Senate will become law on June 1,2013. In summary, this bill establishes an affirmative defense against prosecution for the possession of marijuana or the possession of specified drug paraphernalia that the marijuana or drug paraphernalia was intended for medical use by an individual with a specified debilitating medical condition for whom the defendant is a specified caregiver; etc.”
A similar law for medical marijuana users is already in effect.