Maryland's House of Delegates passed a medical marijuana measure 108-28 Monday.
The measure, which will now go to the Senate, would create a state commission to oversee medical marijuana programs at academic medical research centers that want to participate. It would not be up and running in Maryland until at least the 2016 fiscal year.
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"It may take several years for a program to get up and running, and federal policy presents a substantial obstacle to a law like this one ever being fully implemented," said Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Still, this bill gives us hope that patients could have safe, reliable access through programs that bear the imprimatur of some of the country's most respected medical institutions."
Eighteen other states and the District of Columbia currently allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Physician and Baltimore Democrat Del. Dan Morhaim, who sponsored the bill, described Maryland's potential program as the most controlled in the country.
Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration previously opposed the bill, but reversed course in recent weeks and now supports it.
Several years ago California was the first state to approve medical marijuana.