Maryland Senate Okays Use of Medical Marijuana, with a Caveat; Legislation heads to House of Delegates for Floor Vote

The state of Maryland recently moved a few steps closer to giving medical marijuana patients an affirmative defense to criminal marijuana possession charges. In a landslide vote in late March, the state senate approved Senate Bill 308.

The legislation amends the 2003 Darrel Putnam Compassionate Act, a law that allows a defendant to invoke a medical necessity defense, but only to limit jail time. Under the Putnam legislation, qualified patients could still be convicted and have the misdemeanor conviction posted on their criminal record, but their maximum fine would be up to $100.

Under the proposed legislation, patients with “clear and convincing evidence” of their need to use medical marijuana cannot be found guilty nor fined $100. But, unlike in other states with medical marijuana statutes, patients in Maryland are not immune from arrest and prosecution. They must still defend their marijuana use in court.

Another aspect of SB 308 is that it does not include provisions regarding the growing of marijuana or purchasing of it in a dispensary. However, the proposed legislation does call for a study group to investigate more comprehensive medical marijuana use laws for 2012.

Meanwhile, the Maryland House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed HB 291 recently. That bill calls for the creation of an 18-member panel to advise the legislature on the best way to create a medical marijuana program in 2012.

Medical marijuana is permitted in 13 states and the District of Columbia. Other states, including Delaware and Connecticut, are currently considering legislation to allow its use under tightly controlled conditions. Such laws already exist in Rhode Island and New Jersey, where medical marijuana distribution centers were recently licensed by the state and are slated for opening later this year.

If you are charged with criminal marijuana possession charges, or need an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer, contact us or call Jonathan Scott Smith now: 410-740-0101.


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