Over the last few years, a number of controversial issues have come before the Maryland Legislature. These issues tend to overshadow all of the other work being done by the Legislature during their relatively brief legislative session. Most recently, the Legislature has had to deal with the issues of legalizing same sex marriage and legalizing casinos in Maryland. Both measures were extremely controversial and received a lot of attention.
Now that the recreational use of marijuana has been made legal in Washington and Colorado, and medical marijuana is allowed in over a dozen other states, what will probably be the most controversial issue coming before the Legislature this year will be the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana.
Legalization means that, subject to restrictions in the law, like the Colorado law which requires that the smoking of marijuana not be done in public, there are no penalties for the use of marijuana. Decriminalization, on the other hand, means that the illegal use or possession of marijuana will be subject to a fine, but not incarceration. This would be similar to getting a parking ticket.
The reason I am writing this article is because I strongly believe that the Maryland Legislature should legalize medical marijuana. There is ample medical evidence that marijuana is extremely helpful in dealing with a number of diseases and/or symptoms of diseases. From glaucoma to chemotherapy, medical marijuana has been proven to be of great value to the patient and to lessen the discomfort and pain that various symptoms and treatments produce. I am personally aware of how people undergoing chemotherapy experience incredible nausea and vomiting, but have been able to remedy their lack of appetite and limit the nausea through the use of marijuana. These are not teenagers and twenty-somethings, but rather seventy and eighty year old people who never smoked marijuana before, but turned to it because they were willing to try anything to deal with the situation. The problem is they had to turn to a friend or relative and ask them to commit a criminal act in purchasing marijuana for them to enable them to deal with their situation. Then the person who is ill must commit a second criminal act in using the marijuana.
While Maryland Courts are instructed to take into account the fact that the marijuana may only have been used for a medical need in ruling in criminal actions for possession and use, it is, I am sure, devastating to anyone who has bought or used marijuana solely for medical purposes to be called a criminal, to have to expend thousands of dollars to have an attorney represent them, and be required to discuss their medical situation in public which often causes a great deal of anxiety and embarrassment.
The Maryland Legislature has three options in this legislative session dealing with marijuana. First, it can leave the law as it is and allow those who have a medical need to continue to be forced to commit criminal acts to deal with extreme circumstances. Second, it can approve medical marijuana to protect those people. Finally it can simply legalize or decriminalize marijuana for the entire public.
This article is not to take a stand on full legalization or decriminalization of marijuana, but to simply note this is a worthy debate which will hopefully lead to a legal remedy for hundreds, if not thousands, of Maryland residents who would benefit from the availability of medical marijuana.
~Steven T. Blomberg