POLITICS
03/27/2014 01:57 pm ET

Maryland Senate Passes Overhaul Of State's Medical Marijuana Law

Colin Brynn via Getty Images

Maryland's state Senate has passed a bill overhauling the state's medical marijuana law, taking a key step toward making the drug more accessible to patients.

Senate Bill 923, which passed Thursday in a 45-1 vote, would allow patients to be recommended by their doctor for medical marijuana treatment.

Maryland technically legalized medical pot last year. However, the law limited distribution of the drug to a number of "academic medical centers," none of which have agreed to participate in the program. As a result, medical pot has remained virtually unavailable in the state. Under the new legislation, nearly 100 dispensaries could open in the state.

The Senate bill, which was introduced by state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D), differs slightly from a measure passed by the state's House of Delegates last week. In the Senate version, there is no set cap on the number of growers licensed the state. The upper chamber's bill also requires that growers and dispensaries remain separate entities so as to avoid monopolistic price setting.

The measure is now expected to go to a conference committee, where legislators from both chambers will work on the differences between the two bills.

"The Senate should be commended for bringing Maryland patients one step closer to finding real relief with medical marijuana," Marijuana Policy Project legislative analyst Rachelle Yeung said in a Thursday statement. "Marijuana has been proven to help treat a variety of medical conditions, and seriously ill Marylanders should not have to fear arrest or risk their safety to obtain the medicine that works for them. We are hopeful that the House will agree with them, and we can finally begin to implement an effective medical marijuana program."

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