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Effort to decriminalize medical marijuana in Maryland on hold

Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana are in a waiting game now. Maryland's legislative session ended last week without the lawmakers having decided on a proposal to decriminalize the medicinal use of the drug.

An earlier report from the Baltimore Sun suggested that the state Senate would pass the legalization proposal as easily as the House did. Apparently, sources were wrong. Maryland residents will have to wait at least until the next session before changes might be made to current drug laws regarding marijuana in the state.

Possession of marijuana is still illegal in Maryland, but an affirmative defense can help defend someone's case. An affirmative defense essentially means that a defendant must prove that there are additional facts to his or her case that excuse him or her from standard criminal charges.

In the case of a suspect who is charged with marijuana possession, if he or she can prove that the drug is used for strict medical purposes, then that affirmative defense can save the defendant from serious conviction and sentencing. Currently, Maryland reduces punishment to $100 in the case of proven medical necessity; however, the ailing are still deemed to be convicted criminals.

Such was the motivation for the recent proposal that, if passed, wouldn't have just saved medical marijuana users from harsh sentencing; rather, it would have saved them from criminal convictions entirely.

The proposed law would have prohibited possession of more than one ounce of marijuana for medical use. In order to verify that the defendant truly is in possession of marijuana for medical purposes, a doctor would testify or provide written testimony or related paperwork as to the alleged medical necessity, helping innocent defendants keep clean records.

According to The Washington Post, Maryland's next legislative session won't take place until the fall, and whether the issue of medical marijuana will be a focus has not been verified.

Source

The Baltimore Sun (blog): "House affirms affirmative defense for marijuana," Julie Bykowicz, 9 Apr. 2011

Category: drug charges

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