Medical marijuana bill passes Maryland Senate

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Seriously ill Marylanders who get recommendations from their doctors would now have access to medical marijuana under a bill passed Thursday by the Maryland Senate.

The Senate approved the bill 45-1 with the amended bill now heading to the House of Delegates for consideration, where a similar bill has already been approved.

Possession limits and regulations governing cultivation and dispensary facilities would be determined by the state prior to implementation. A companion house bill was passed by the House earlier this year and is waiting for consideration by the Senate.

Both bills aim to make medical marijuana more accessible for people who would benefit from it. The Senate's version does not limit the number of growers the state could license and would leave this decision to a commission. But the House bill caps the number at 10.

The Senate's version also sets a two-year term for each grower's license, instead of the House bill's five-year term, and it mandates a study on how best to provide medical marijuana to veterans.

In April 2013, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a bill into law that allows residents with serious illnesses to obtain medical marijuana via state-regulated programs administrated by academic medical research centers.

“The Senate should be commended for bringing Maryland patients one step closer to finding real relief with medical marijuana,” said Rachelle Yeung, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project in a statement.

“Marijuana has been proven to help treat a variety of medical conditions, and seriously ill Marylanders should not have to fear arrest or risk their safety to obtain the medicine that works for them. We are hopeful that the House will agree with them, and we can finally begin to implement an effective medical marijuana program.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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