It is hard to believe that anyone who has seen a loved one suffer through the last phases of a terminal illness could possibly advocate for the continued ban of medical marijuana in Maryland. Those gut-wrenching moments experienced by families, be they social conservatives or liberals, convince most that pain management for the dying must be the primary goal in delivering final care for the patient. And that includes the use of cannabis.
Legal access to the widest range of tools for pain is critical for caregivers and their patients. Every day without suffering allows the dying the time needed to find peace with spouses, children, relatives and their own life experience. It seems inconceivable that an organic substance as relatively benign and effective in treatment as THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) found in marijuana would not be legally available to help those who suffer, and yet in the State of Maryland this is still the case.
Beyond the inconvenience and the legal risks caregivers must take to find medical marijuana, someone in possession of cannabis is still subject to humiliating arrest and fines in this state. Last year, the Governor signed into a law a Senate bill that attempted to mitigate this to some degree by allowing defendants suffering from “a debilitating condition” to use their medical status as an ‘affirmative defense’ to eliminate criminal penalties. And yet this defense cannot be used in their defense if they face charges of growing the same marijuana in their backyard. It is a poorly written and vague part of state law that must be corrected.
It’s now time for the General Assembly to finish the job and provide a pathway for the legal, safe, and accessible use of medical marijuana with the passage of the Maryland Medical Marijuana Act (HB 15) proposed by Delegate Cheryl Glenn of Baltimore. Modeled after successful programs in the other sixteen states that allow medical marijuana, Del. Glenn’s bill deserves the support of those committed to humane patient care in our state.