- Associated Press - Saturday, March 15, 2014

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A measure designed to make Maryland’s medical marijuana law effective moved a step forward on Saturday in the Maryland House of Delegates.

The House gave the measure initial approval to get the bill on track to pass before a Monday deadline for legislation to clear a chamber in the Legislature.

The bill makes a significant change to Maryland’s law by allowing certified doctors to recommend that their patients receive marijuana for medicinal purposes. Doctors would need to be on staff at a hospital or hospice program and register with a state commission to make marijuana available to a sick patient.

Del. Dan Morhaim, a physician who has been a leading sponsor of medical marijuana legislation in Maryland, said the requirement provides extra oversight.

The state enacted a medical marijuana law last year. However, it has not been effective so far because it requires academic medical centers to distribute marijuana to patients. None has stepped forward to do so.

The measure would limit the number of marijuana growers for medical purposes in the state to 10. Growers also would dispense the drug after undergoing a careful regulatory process by a state commission, which will draft regulations by Sept. 15.

While academic medical centers in the state did not step forward to implement the program, Morhaim said a number of businesses have expressed interest in participating.

The House rejected an amendment offered by Del. Kelly Schulz, R-Frederick. She sought to have medical marijuana use reported in the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

“This is changing our policy in the state in a way none of us really definitely understand the outcome in where we’re headed,” Schulz said, while arguing that marijuana should be treated as painkillers like OxyContin or Percocet.

But Morhaim, a Baltimore County Democrat, said the measure already has strict rules specific to medical marijuana.

“This bill would not be here if those issues were not taken care of in this bill now,” he said.

On the first day of the legislative session in January, Gov. Martin O’Malley expressed support for working with lawmakers to find a way to move forward on medical marijuana in a way that doesn’t promote recreational use, after it became clear medical marijuana had stalled in Maryland under the law’s current framework.

On Friday, the Senate passed a measure to decriminalize marijuana possession of 10 grams or less. The Senate passed a similar bill last year, but the bill died in a House committee last year.

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