ANNAPOLIS — A bill aimed at making marijuana available as a medical remedy for conditions such as childhood epilepsy has cleared one side of the state Legislature, and lawmakers say it stands a good chance of success in the second.
After the legislation passed the House of Delegates on Monday, it headed over to the Senate, a chamber that has historically been more friendly to medical marijuana proposals. Sen. Brian Frosh, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said the legislation might see some changes. However, he predicted that the Maryland General Assembly will act this session to open access to medical marijuana.
“I think we’ll get something done,” said Frosh, D-Montgomery. “I think it will improve what’s in place because that’s not working at all. But I can’t really predict yet what shape it will take.”
The Judicial Proceedings Committee will take up the Senate version of the medical marijuana bill sometime this week or next, Frosh said. The panel will then turn to the House proposal, he added.
Sen. David Brinkley said he anticipates an attempt to attach a marijuana decriminalization proposal to the bill. However, a decriminalization provision would likely drag down the entire bill, said Brinkley, who indicated he would resist the add-on.
Shannon Moore, a Frederick parent who has advocated for access to medical marijuana, said she was excited to see the House approve the bill by a vote of 126 to 10.
“I’m absolutely thrilled. ... What it means is we’re going to have a medical marijuana bill that works,” said Moore, whose twin sons suffer from life-threatening seizures.
In Colorado, concentrated marijuana oil has emerged as a pediatric treatment for epilepsy, and Moore has argued that Maryland children deserve the same chance at finding relief.
Maryland lawmakers last year approved a bill allowing academic medical centers to run marijuana treatment programs. However, no academic medical centers have stepped forward to establish such a program. As a result, Maryland patients still lack legal access to medical marijuana.
The proposal that passed the House this week took shape through a collaboration between delegates Cheryl Glenn and Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County.
Their legislation would open a pathway for obtaining marijuana through a doctor-patient relationship.
Brinkley, R-District 4, said he believes the Senate will look favorably on the proposal. Both Brinkley and Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, have signed on to sponsor the Senate version of Glenn’s bill.
Glenn said her bill strikes a balance between allowing marijuana treatments and tightly controlling the substance’s distribution, and she believes her proposal will pass the Senate largely intact.
“We expect this to be up and running within a year,” Glenn, D-Baltimore city, said of the new medical marijuana program.
Her legislation states that to access marijuana, patients would need a physician’s written certification that the substance would be medically beneficial. At that point, the state medical marijuana commission could issue an identification card to the patient, who could then buy the substance from licensed growers, Glenn said.
The bill lists certain disease categories appropriate for the treatment; conditions that involve anorexia, chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures or severe muscle spasms are mentioned in the legislation.
Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.