by David Downs
Maryland's state nickname may be "Free State", but it won't feel liberating to patients who qualify for medical marijuana.
The Maryland State Senate voted 42-4 earlier this week in favor of House Bill 1101, widely lauded as the law to make Maryland the 20th medical marijuana state in the nation. Nice work to everyone who's trying, but just to be clear, HB 1101 doesn't legalize medical marijuana — at least not yet. And if the rest of the Eastern Seaboard is any indication — New Jersey, Maine, Rhode Island, Washington D.C. — a forest of red tape will soon envelop this token project.
It's not clear who will qualify for the herbal remedy, for which the indications are vast. For example, one tenth of the population might qualify if California's medical conditions applied. That's 580,000 Marylanders who are going to be waiting awhile.
Assuming the Maryland governor signs the bill, which takes effect in October, experts say the programs won't be up and running until at least 2016.
Meanwhile, less-than-medical marijuana will remain widely available on Maryland's streets, judging by the 24,000 arrests for pot possession in 2012.
“Equally significant is the fact that most of those arrested are young people, predominantly African Americans, who end up with the taint of a criminal charge that makes it harder for them to get a job, stay in school or resist getting involved in more serious crimes,” Washington Post opines.
On the bright side, Marylanders continue to enjoy a medical defense in court that reduces personal pot possession charges (one ounce) to no more than $100. But if you're hoping to do some medical marijuana home-growing, prison time remains discretionary.