Pubdate: Sat, 27 Feb 2016
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2016 The Washington Post Company
Author: Josh Hicks


MD. House Backs Broader Certification; Hearing Held on Gun Bills

Maryland would allow midwives, nurses, dentists and foot doctors to 
certify patients for medical-marijuana use under a bill the state 
House of Delegates passed Friday.

Current state law restricts such authority to physicians, but the 
House voted 110 to 21 to extend it to other types of health-care providers.

The legislation, sponsored by Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore 
County), will now move to the Senate for consideration. The change 
wouldn't have any immediate practical implications, because the state 
doesn't expect to have any dispensaries until at least next year.

Under the bill, the included care providers would be required to have 
an active, unrestricted license to practice in their fields; be in 
good standing with their respective boards; and be registered to 
prescribe controlled substances.

Maryland legalized medical cannabis in 2013, but the state commission 
tasked with overseeing the industry is still working to issue its 
first licenses for growers, processors and dispensaries after a 
series of changes to the program and a flood of applications that 
require careful vetting. Sales, which will be restricted to those who 
are certified, is not expected to begin until 2017.

According to the commission, 85 physicians have registered to certify 
patients for the drug.

Morhaim, who is a physician, has proposed four bills this year that 
would eliminate criminal penalties for low-level possession of 
narcotics and increase the state's focus on treating addiction.

The medical-marijuana bill was among several considered by state 
lawmakers Friday. The House Judiciary Committee also held a hearing 
on two gun-control bills - one that would prohibit the state from 
issuing gun permits to people on the FBI's terrorist watch list and 
one to require courts, within 48 hours of a conviction, to inform 
felons and domestic abusers that they must turn over their firearms 
and verify that they have complied within three days.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President 
Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) have backed the proposals, 
improving the odds that their chambers will approve the bills.

But the measures could lead to a standoff with Gov. Larry Hogan (R), 
who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association during his 2014 
campaign. As a candidate, Hogan pledged that he would not try to roll 
back Maryland's gun laws, which are among the most stringent in the 
nation, but gun-rights advocates said he promised to look for ways to 
expand access to firearms.

Opponents and Republicans on the panel raised concerns that the 
watch-list bill violates due-process rights, saying that individuals 
could be placed on the roster without first having a chance to 
challenge the designation.

"You cannot deny someone a constitutional right based on their 
inclusion on a secret list," said Shannon Alford, the NRA's 
legislative liaison for Maryland. "This list is not an appropriate 
standard to use."

Del. Luke H. Clippinger (D-Baltimore), who sponsored the bill, said 
anyone on the watch list who is denied a gun permit would be informed 
of which federal agency they can contact to try to clear their names. 
But he acknowledged that some information about how individuals end 
up on the listmay be classified and thus off-limits to the person 
seeking removal.

Alford noted that prominent non-terrorist figures have appeared on 
the list, including former anti-apartheid activists and South African 
president Nelson Mandela, who was removed in 2008; musician Yusuf 
Islam, previously known as Cat Stevens; and U.S. Rep. Thomas M. 
McClintock (R-Calif.), who shares a name with a one-time Irish 
Republican Army leader.

Jen Pauliukonis, legislative director of Marylanders to Prevent Gun 
Violence, said the threat of terrorists obtaining firearms outweighs 
mistakes the federal government might make with its watch list.

"You need to balance the greater good with a process where some 
people might slip through the cracks," she said. "You have to balance 
that with the alternative - how many of these people are going to be 
able to get their hands on so many dangerous weapons."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom