Pubdate: Sun, 17 Apr 2011
Source: Frederick News Post (MD)
Copyright: 2011 Randall Family, LLC.
Bookmark: (Maryland)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


The state has flaked once again in creating a robust system that 
would allow medical marijuana users to legally seek relief from 
sometimes devastating symptoms.

Instead, lawmakers changed the law only incrementally so legitimate 
users can avoid prosecution with a doctor's note. And instead of 
comprehensive reform, the bill will create a study committee.

It's a shame. The legalization of medical marijuana had enormous 
support this year, and should have passed. Whether lawmakers will 
muster the same ardor over the next three years to really address 
this issue remains to be seen.

This year's enthusiasm should have meant enactment of a safe system 
to grow and distribute medical marijuana, and a network of trusted 
doctors to prescribe it. We had all that and more in comprehensive 
legislation from Sen. David Brinkley, a Frederick Republican, and 
Delegate Dan Morhaim, a Montgomery County Democrat.

That enthusiasm fizzled suddenly after testimony from state Health 
Secretary Josh Sharfstein, who advocated caution, even though such 
systems are in place in 15 states and D.C.

Instead, the legislation awaiting the governor's signature was 
transformed to empower an 18-member panel to advise the General 
Assembly on how best to create a medical marijuana program for next year.

Under the law on the books, medical marijuana users are forced into 
an illegal market, and are put in line for criminal prosecution.

The original compromise in 2006 was to make the penalty for medical 
marijuana use so low that law enforcement organizations would forgo 
prosecutions because they would not be worth the expense or 
administrative red tape to net $100 fines.

But, it turns out, medical marijuana users are being prosecuted. 
Defense lawyers who deal with these cases are recommending probation 
before judgment, which carries a stiffer fine, but allows people 
found guilty to have their records wiped clean.

Hence the tweak, which would allow those who are using marijuana out 
of necessity to be found not guilty.

It's not enough. There is no need for a study. There is a pressing 
need to properly provide some very sick, and in some cases dying, 
people with some relief. Celebrate the passage of this most recent 
legislation as only a nominal victory.  
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