Academic Medical Centers Can Give Out Marijuana Under New Legislation

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—There’s finally a breakthrough for patients who use marijuana as medicine.

Pat Warren reports Maryland joins 18 other states with a system in place for patients to legally use marijuana.

Governor Martin O’Malley signed the state’s medical marijuana bill into law Thursday.

“I feel that it would cut down on some of my pain,” Lawanna Elsafty, an arthritis patient, told WJZ during the General Assembly session this year.

The bill signing comes nearly a year to the day that WJZ aired an Eyewitness News Special Report on people who feel they have no choice but to break the law to get the relief they need.

“It’s just as useful as chemotherapy,” Phillip Weigner told WJZ‘s Vic Carter in an interview last year.

Weigner is a cancer patient who was arrested for possession of marijuana. He was among the patients testifying in committee hearings on the bill.

Marijuana, he says, “helps me with my appetite, nausea, sleep, some of the pain that I have.”

The new legislation authorizes a commission to designate marijuana dispensaries in academic medical centers and study the effects on patients.

“Oh, it could potentially help me immensely if I get included in the study,” said Barry Considine, a medical marijuana advocate whose illness requires he use a wheelchair.

He is among those who consider the selective power of the commission to decide which diseases are treated as a shortcoming in the bill.

“Say somebody on the commission says, ‘You know what, rheumatoid arthritis is a much more serious disease than osteoarthritis, so let’s just study rheumatoid arthritis patients’ and then I’m out in the cold,” Considine said.

But supporters consider this bill a big step forward.

The law takes effect in October.

The governor last month signed a bill that allows caretakers caught with marijuana to avoid criminal charges if they can prove the drug is for a patient.

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