On May 22, 2003 – Maryland became the ninth state to legalize the medical use of marijuana. Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. signed a bill (which went into effect on October 1, 2003), that applies to defendants possessing less than one ounce of marijuana and who can prove they used marijuana out of medical necessity and with a doctor’s recommendation. Under Maryland’s medical marijuana law, patients are protected from a criminal record and possible imprisonment. The maximum penalty for possession of marijuana by a patient with a valid doctor’s recommendation is $100. Ehrlich, the first Republican governor to sign a bill relaxing penalties for medicinal use of marijuana, signed the measure despite intense pressure from the Bush administration to veto it.
Recently, Frederick County Circuit Court Judge John H. Tisdale granted “probation before judgment” to a woman charged with marijuana possession. A letter from the woman’s physician proved her medical necessity both to the court and to the assistant state’s attorney. The medical marijuana patient was then granted one year of probation and was not fined. Under Maryland law, if she avoids legal trouble for the duration of her probation, the charges will be dropped entirely. If, however, she violates her probation, the maximum penalty for her medical marijuana use remains at $100, with no possible jail time.
II. Becoming A Patient
Since Maryland only provides an affirmative defense in court for medical marijuana patients, there is no real process for becoming a patient other than receiving a valid doctor’s recommendation. Therefore, there is no registration fee, identification card, or list of eligible medical conditions provided. Additionally, Maryland’s medical marijuana law does not state what is considered to be valid written documentation to prove eligibility, or how to find a physician to recommend medical marijuana.
A. Age Limits
Age limits are not addressed under Maryland’s medical marijuana law.
B. Personal Records
Americans for Safe Access strongly urges all patients to keep copies of all paperwork they have related to their status as a medical marijuana patient as proof of legal status. This is meant to protect patients from possible future encounters with law enforcement agents.
III. Limitations and Protections under the Initiative
Under MCL § 5-601 (2004), in a prosecution for the use or possession of marijuana, the defendant may introduce and the court shall consider as a mitigating factor any evidence of medical necessity. If the court finds that the person used or possessed marijuana because of medical necessity, on conviction of a violation of this section, the maximum penalty that the court may impose on the person is a fine not exceeding $100.
Additionally, in a prosecution involving drug paraphernalia related to marijuana, the defendant may introduce and the court shall consider as a mitigating factor any evidence of medical necessity.
A. Possession, Growing, and Consumption Limitations
Maryland’s medical marijuana law only protects patients who possess less than one ounce of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. No additional provisions are given concerning the growing or consumption of marijuana for medical reasons.
B. Paraphernalia associated with medical use
Maryland’s medical marijuana law further states that: “if the court finds that the person used or possessed drug paraphernalia related to marijuana because of medical necessity, the maximum penalty that the court may impose on the person is a fine not exceeding $100.”
C. Access to Medical Marijuana
No provision is made in Maryland’s medical marijuana law for accessibility of medical marijuana to patients. This includes the absence of any mention of growing/dispensing collectives and cooperatives.
No mention of caregivers is made in Maryland’s medical marijuana law.
E. Housing and Employment
Maryland’s medical marijuana law does not discuss whether patients are protected from punitive consequences for their conduct as a patient in either their housing or employment situations.
Maryland Residents: Maryland currently has no reciprocity agreements with other states to honor Maryland’s medical marijuana patients. This includes even those states that currently have medical marijuana laws of their own. However, in Montana, medical marijuana patients from other states who are valid medical marijuana patients under that state’s law are protected under Section 4(8) of the Montana Medical Marijuana Act [Sec. 50-46-201(8), MCA]. A registry identification card or its equivalent issued by another state government to permit the medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient or to permit a person to assist with a qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana has the same force and effect as a registry identification card issued by the Department of Public Health and Human Services in Montana. Therefore, medical marijuana patients from Maryland should be protected in Montana under Montana state law. See the Montana Patients Guide for details on the protections and limitations that Montana state law affords medical marijuana patients.
In states with no medical marijuana program, marijuana use, regardless of a doctor’s recommendation, is illegal. Medical marijuana patients may be arrested and charged with civil or criminal offenses in those states.
G. Law Enforcement
Maryland’s medical marijuana law is also void of any provisions regarding law enforcement. This includes protections afforded to patients, punitive liability for patients (other than a $100 fine), and state liability regarding medical marijuana.
The issue of confidentiality is not discussed under Maryland’s medical marijuana law.