Maryland lawmakers have revamped the state’s medical marijuana program by establishing a framework of rules that is similar to those found in other medical marijuana states.
The new program dissolves the state’s previous medical marijuana plan, which many saw as fatally flawed, and will open the door for hundreds of business opportunities across the board.
The measure – called HB 881, which was signed into law Monday morning by Gov. Martin O’Mally – allows the state’s marijuana commission to grant physicians the power to recommend the plant to patients. Patients can then purchase marijuana from a network of state-licensed dispensaries.
Under the law, the state will allow up to 15 medical marijuana cultivators. It does not specify how many dispensaries will be allowed to open. Patients that suffer from severe pain, nausea, wasting syndrome, anorexia, severe muscle spasms and “any other condition that is severe and for which medical treatments have been ineffective if the symptoms reasonably can be expected to be relieved by medical marijuana” can qualify for the program.
The inclusion of severe pain and nausea could help Maryland become a sizable medical marijuana state, with potential revenues in the tens or even hundreds of millions depending on the exact framework the state develops.
The law will go into effect on June 1, however legislators predict it will take about 15 months for the program to get up and running.
Additionally, lawmakers approved a decriminalization bill that makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense. That law goes into effect on Oct. 1.
Maryland must now approve additional regulations to govern the medical marijuana industry. Dr. Paul Davies, chairman of the state’s Medical Marijuana Commission, said his 14-member group would develop and propose regulations to the state by September.
The new program replaces Maryland’s previous medical marijuana system, which lawmakers approved in 2013. Under that program, responsibility for administering medical marijuana was given to academic medical centers. None of the state’s academic centers have indicated that they want to participate in the program.