House Bill 881, signed by the Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley in April 14, 2014 — effective June 01, 2014 — tasked the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission, with developing regulations for a patient registry and identification cards, dispensary licensing, settling fees and possession limits.
With effect June 01, 2016, the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission may issue the number of dispensary licenses as necessary to serve the demand of medical marijuana by Maryland patients and caregivers who have been issued identification cards.
Patients in Maryland diagnosed with one of the following severe, debilitating, or life-threatening medical conditions, are afforded legal protection under the Maryland Medical Marijuana law, as per the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission:
Some medical marijuana patients will claim they have a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana, but marijuana prescriptions are in fact illegal. The federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule I drug. Therefore doctors are unable to prescribe marijuana to their patients, and medical marijuana patients cannot go to a pharmacy to fill a prescription for medical marijuana. Instead, medical marijuana doctors in Maryland will supply patients with a medical marijuana recommendation in compliance with state law.
According to Maryland medical marijuana laws, the maximum amount medical marijuana patients are legally allowed to possess is a “30-day supply” — an amount to be determined by the Commission.
In April 2017, state legislators were considering a bill that would make it easier for patients meeting Maryland medical marijuana qualifications to obtain therapeutic cannabis. The House of Delegates voted 90-45 to expand the number of cultivation licenses and to also make the licensing system more accessible to minorities. The bill was still under consideration by the state Senate as of this writing. If it passes the Senate as well, it is expected it has enough votes to withstand any potential veto by the governor.
The legislation was meant to address the fact that none of Maryland’s 15 cultivation licenses had been awarded to businesses owned by minorities. If approved, the bill could lead to the issuance of five extra licenses. First, however, a study would have to be conducted to determine if minority owners were discriminated against during the original licensing process. However, the companies that were awarded the licenses are against the measure.
In another development, legislation was also being considered to revamp the entire method for licensing cultivation operations in the state. Two companies denied licenses argued they were bumped from the list for firms that ranked lower in the decision-making process.
Counting these latest bills, there have been 15 pieces of legislation filed during the 2016-17 legislative session to either reform the licensing process or reform the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission. All of this legislative wrangling is further delaying the implementation of Maryland’s medical marijuana program, which was first approved in 2014. As a result, patients meeting medical marijuana qualifications in Maryland must continue to wait until they can legally obtain this therapeutic medicine.
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