The Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill that would make medical marijuana legally available through academic medical research centers in a 108-28 vote on Monday. The bill will now head to the state Senate, where supporters expect passage.
Maryland's marijuana bill is limited, compared to programs in other states. Pot use will be tightly restricted to medicinal purposes, and a representative of state police chiefs will sit on a commission overseeing its use. The House vote nevertheless represents an important victory for medical marijuana advocates, because it comes on the heels of a decision from the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to withdraw its opposition.
Eighteen states have approved medical marijuana in some form, but the federal government still says the drug has no legitimate medical use. If the Maryland Senate and O'Malley give the bill final approval, the state will begin what could be a years-long process to set up the parameters for medical use and navigate around federal obstacles.
"It may take several years for a program to get up and running, and federal policy presents a substantial obstacle to a law like this one ever being fully implemented," said Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement. "Still, this bill gives us hope that patients could have safe, reliable access through programs that bear the imprimatur of some of the country’s most respected medical institutions."