The Maryland Senate passed a bill legalizing a medical marijuana program 42 – 4 Monday. The bill is now on its way to Governor Martin O’Malley, who is expected to sign it.
Once the bill turns into law, Maryland will become the 19th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana.
The Maryland bill allows medical marijuana to be distributed by doctors and nurses through academic centers only. These academic centers will be charged with studying the effects of the program. The bill also calls for the creation of a state panel to oversee the program.
Unlike other states, Maryland will not yet permit the distribution of medical marijuana by private dispensaries.
The bill had the support of Maryland’s health secretary Joshua Sharfstein. Democratic Delegate Dan Morhaim, who sponsored the version of the bill that passed Maryland’s House of Delegates, pushed the bill as the tightest of any state.
States that have passed laws to legalize the use of medical marijuana include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The nation’s capital will permit the use of medical marijuana once dispensaries have opened to distribute it.
The Pew Research Center recently released a report showing that the majority of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana use. Just 45 percent oppose permitting marijuana use, but only a third of all Americans find smoking pot to be morally wrong.
Only two states have passed laws to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Both Colorado and Washington voters approved of a ballot initiative to permit marijuana use during the November elections. The federal government still lists marijuana as an illegal drug, putting both state and federal officials on uneasy ground.
Maryland will legalize medical marijuana use and begin distribution in 2016.
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