Putting the ‘High’ in Higher Ed: Proposal Would Let Universities Dispense Medical Cannabis

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A work group tasked with examining potential medical pot laws in Maryland has come up with a novel – and controversial – idea: Let universities handle the task of dispensing marijuana.

Under the proposal, academic institutions such as Johns Hopkins University would provide medical pot to patients with serious medical conditions under a regulated distribution system. The Maryland Medical Marijuana Model Program Work Group recommended the idea to state lawmakers last week as a possible option for distributing medical marijuana in the state.

The work group was created earlier this year to help the state figure out how to regulate medical pot, should it choose to go that route. Maryland passed a bill last spring that provides a legal defense for patients who use marijuana to ease pain tied to certain conditions. But it is still illegal under state laws to posses, grow and sell medical pot.

Some lawmakers hope to eventually get legislation on the books that would allow the creation of a medical marijuana infrastructure, hence the formation of the work group.

The idea of allowing universities to dispense medical pot is unique: Most states with MMJ laws allow a limited number of non-profit collectives or centers to provide patients with pot, while dispensaries in Colorado are for-profit enterprises.

There are some potential problems with the university recommendation, though. One of the biggest issues is tied to the fact that most universities receive some degree of federal funding, which would be at risk given that medical marijuana is still illegal federally. Additionally, the universities would technically be violating U.S. laws, so it’s doubtful many would sign up to dispense medical pot anyway.

Aside from the university idea, the work group also provided another alternative in which doctors would receive permission from the state to recommend pot for medical reasons and go through training.

Medical pot is gaining steam on the East Coast, with both Washington DC and New Jersey close to launching MMJ programs and Massachusetts considering medical marijuana laws.