The Maryland Senate [official General Assembly website] on Monday voted 42-4 to approve a bill legalizing medical marijuana programs [HB 1101, PDF] at participating research centers. The bill was approved [JURIST report] by the state's House of Delegates in a 108-28 vote last month. The bill would establish the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission, which would function within the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene [official website] to authorize medical centers to distribute marijuana to patients who meet the criteria for compassionate use. The commission could license up to five medical marijuana growers in the state for each approved program and would be required to provide an annual report to the governor. If signed by Governor Martin O'Malley [official website], the bill will become law and take effect on October 1.
If HB 1101 is approved, Maryland would join several states with laws that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The sale and use of marijuana [JURIST news archive], however, remains a hot-button issue in the US and abroad. Last month, the Michigan Supreme Court [official website] ruled that the private sale of medical marijuana is illegal [JURIST report]. The top court in Ontario also upheld Canada's general ban [JURIST report] on marijuana a week earlier. In December, an Arizona judge ruled that the state's law permitting use of medical marijuana is constitutional [JURIST report] and instructed the state to permit dispensaries to open. In November, lawmakers in Uruguay proposed legislation for state-regulated sale and use of marijuana [JURIST report]. Also that month, Washington [Initiative 502, PDF] and Colorado [Amendment 64, PDF] legalized the drug [JURIST report] for both medical and recreational use via state ballot initiatives. Medical marijuana was also legalized in Massachusetts [Harvard Crimson report] for the first time that month when more than 60 percent of voters approved a similar referendum [Petition 11-11, PDF]. The Oregon electorate, however, rejected a cannabis initiative [Measure 80, PDF] by a vote of approximately 55-to-45 percent [Examiner.com report].