Pubdate: Wed, 25 Jan 2012
Source: Diamondback, The (U of MD Edu)
Copyright: 2012 Diamondback
Author: Jim Bach


Bill Would Enable Doctors to Prescribe Cannabis To

A bill that would enable doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to
patients -- introduced in the House of Delegates earlier this month --
has attracted bipartisan support, moving Maryland closer to joining 16
states and Washington in legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes.

Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore City) drafted HB 15 -- also known as
the Maryland Medical Marijuana Act -- which would allow doctors to
prescribe the drug to patients suffering from severe pain and
end-of-life ailments, as well as regulate the sale and growth of the
drug in the state. Although opponents of the bill have argued that the
legislation would lead to increased drug use, Glenn said prescriptions
would only be used when "doctors have exhausted all other resources."

The bill's purpose, Glenn said, is to provide patients with an easier
path to acquiring the drug if prescribed by a doctor, rather than
having to go through illegal channels.

"I want people to have safe access," she said. "I want people to not
be relegated to buying drugs on the street."

While the Senate approved a bill in May that allows those prosecuted
with possession of marijuana to cite a "debilitating condition" or a
condition "resistant to conventional medicine" as a valid defense in
court, the House bill establishes guidelines for legal and safe
procurement of the drug and would replace the senate bill if passed.

The bill will go before the Health and Government Operations Committee
in the coming weeks, and Glenn said she expects a bill hearing to take
place early next month.

But some delegates, such as Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington), said
because federal law prohibits any possession of the drug, it should
not be passed at the state level.

"It's not FDA-approved," he said. "Marijuana is an illegal

Del. Sheila Hixson (D-Montgomery), however, who has supported similar
bills in previous legislative sessions, said that the medicinal use of
marijuana could help alleviate complications brought on by certain
cancers, provided the law drafts provisions as to who can grow and
sell the drug. Hixson battled cancer 10 years ago, she said, and while
she never used the drug herself, she knew people who could have
benefited from its medical use.

"I think that anything that works should be available, with
restrictions of course," she said.

Many student activists said because studies have shown the medicinal
benefits of marijuana, they support the measure. Brandon Levey, former
co-president of this university's chapter of Students for Sensible
Drug Policy, said the bill's benefits outweigh any potential

"I don't really see any rational argument against legalizing and
regulating marijuana," he said. "There really are patients that need

Some students said the Senate's version of the bill was an important
first step for the state, but also said the House bill would be more

"The fact that this bill would essentially give us a real medical
marijuana law is great," said former Vice President of SSDP Crystal
Varkalis, who sits on the University Senate's Student Conduct
Committee. "I'm definitely in full support."

While Glenn said she does not expect the bill to pass the General
Assembly in its current form, she said she hopes it will be amended
and still provide safer patient access to the drug. Though some were
initially resistant in supporting the bill, Glenn said, patient
testimonies have shown delegates the potential positive impacts of the

"It's been very powerful and has moved many of my colleagues into
acceptance," she said. "I think it's very important we pass this
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