Annapolis, MD: Governor Robert Ehrlich (R) signed legislation into law today to allow medicinal marijuana patients to raise an “affirmative defense of medical necessity” at trial.
Maryland’s legislation does not legalize the use or cultivation of medical marijuana by qualified patients. Rather, the law requires the court to consider a patient’s use of medical marijuana to be a mitigating factor in marijuana-related state prosecutions. If the patient successfully makes the case at trial that his or her use of marijuana is one of medical necessity, then the maximum penalty allowed by law would be a $100 fine. Existing Maryland law imposes a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1000 for marijuana possession, regardless of the circumstances.
The Governor backed the measure despite heavy lobbying from the Bush Administration and Drug Czar John Walters who argued that the medical use of marijuana was “immoral” and a “cruel hoax.”
NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup praised the Governor’s decision, noting, “Governor Ehrlich put the needs of patients before partisan politics. While we recognize that this measure falls short of similar medical marijuana laws in eight other states, it still represents a significant relaxation of existing law, and will offer needed legal protections for sick and dying Marylanders.”