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February 28, 2011

Health agency opposes medical marijuana bill

The chief of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene testified today against a bill that would have legalized medical marijuana, potentially dooming a plan that had been on track to pass the General Assembly this year.

The proposal, which cleared the Senate last year and attracted more than 60 House co-sponsors this year (71 votes are needed for passage), would have enabled doctors to prescribe marijuana for patients with chronic pain or diseases and established a tightly controlled network of state-registered growers and dispensaries.

Instead, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, who took over the Health Department in January, proposed a more measured first step. If a committee of lawmakers, health officials, law enforcement and interested parties agree, Maryland would mimic a research program recommended by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

That would mean far more limited access to medical marijuana than under the General Assembly's legislation.

Del. Dan Morhaim, the House sponsor of the medical marijuana bill and the legislature's only medical doctor, agreed to Sharfstein's idea. The discussion came as two House committees heard testimony from many cancer patients, doctors and medical marijuana advocates who support Morhaim's bill.

Last year, under then-Secretary John Colmers, the department took no position on Morhaim's bill, the agency spokesman said.

But Sharfstein, a former top official with the Food and Drug Administration, testified today that Morhaim's bill may have unintended consequences -- either proving costly for the state to implement, enabling too many patients access to marijuana or both.

Sharfstein said that while many medical organizations support additional research of medical marijuana, "they have not supported state efforts to legalize" it.

Fifteen states, most recently Arizona, and the District of Columbia allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana.

Some lawmakers at the hearing also expressed concerns that until the federal government reclassifies marijuana, states are breaking the law by implementing any medical marijuana program. And before Sharfstein testified, Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons, wondered whether Morhaim's bill would permit someone with back pain or other less-severe conditions to use marijuana. Morhaim stressed that a doctor would need to make that determination.

Responding to Sharfstein's testimony, Morhaim said he would work with the Health Department to either amend his bill to conform to the Institute of Medicine recommendations or continue studying the issue.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 3:51 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: 2011 legislative session


Leave it to the lawmakers to take something simple, other states have already passed and are moving forward, and make it a problem(here in MD.) Stop wasting valueable time and taxpayers money bickering about something so minor that it doesn't count anymore. NEXT BILL ON AGENDA>

So he wants to implement a research program to study it some more. What a joke. What he's saying is, give me more tax payer money and I'll start up a research program that will probably not come up with any real conclusion but we (the people involved) will pay ourselves nicely for it.

The State Department of Health gets a lot of money each year to place people into treatment for marijuana "addiction". Next steep is to legalize all marijuana. If marijuana were legalized, nobody would be in "treatment" for it and the agency would lose a lot of money. These people benefit quite well from prohibition and have a conflict of interest.

I can never understand why the State of Maryland insists on being behind the curve. Marijuana is being used responsibly already - the current legal approach simply criminalizes the non-violent individuals who benefit in one way or another from it's use.

Marijuana is an untapped industry in this state. Medical marijuana only allows a small fraction of that potential windfall to be tapped.

Of course, from the governments standpoint, there already are tremendous profits being reaped thanks to marijuana. Unfortunately, that's being accomplished through the justice system, in a tedious, invasive, disparaging and totally unnecessary way.

The criminalization of marijuana is a distraction from the real problems that face society - be it threats of violence from gangs, of terrorism from extremists. It drains police resources and attention, and heightens the risk that someone might be hurt, which is from my understanding the opposite of the intention of the laws themselves.

And most significantly, marijuana criminalization represents a double-standard unparalleled in modern American law. Juxtaposed to the governments approach to alcohol, a toxin responsible for infinitely more carnage in one year than marijuana could account for in the documented history of it's use, there is no rational argument for the way our politicians approach this issue.

Decriminalize it's use, regulate behaviors associated with it, and get out of our living rooms. It's an embarrassment.

I think it is time to do as God intended and let the plant go wherever it chooses.

It promotes neurogenesis for crying out loud.

So how much was that big check from the alcohol and tobacco lobby to kill this one??

As a mental health and substance abuse counselor - what I've realized over-time is that individual's who want to use drugs simply to get "high" they are willing to try anything - people who are in pain aren't running out to purchase "Spice" or "bath salts" for the HIGH... As professionals we know that ALL drugs... Wow... Better yet anything can be addictive, if some1 wants to get "high" Legal consequences aren't feared - but to have individuals who benefit from "alternative" tx be it marijuana or some other mixture - why have them labeled as Criminals. I treat sloop many pts who have become addicted to "opiates" which have been prescribed and my God Methadone.... Is methadone really helpful or is it just our way of managing addicts - suboxone.... Is suppose to be short term usage - cts have been prescribed for over 6 years.... So.... We can get a couple of nurses and some counselors and have Gas and Go Methadone Programs; however we can't have trained medical professionals determine if their patients are good candidates for medical marijuana - that's freaking ridiculous... I'm not opposed to people getting married man female or male male or female female, but Cmon - I can get state benefits for a girl-friend that can be my wife now and pooh yes her kids as well, but if I'm in pain a doctor can only say they recommend it but you'll be fined, possibly jailed and have a court date... Maryland, Maryland, Maryland is great great great great great great grand dad still making the laws while chewing snuff on the porch drinking water from a well that the little colored girl drew from the well 1 mile away from the Big House... We're suppose to do less harm right.....

Alcohol prohibition in the US run from 1919 to 1933 - Now google 'The Great Wall Street Crash' and see when that happened!

During alcohol prohibition, all profits went to enrich thugs and criminals. Young men died every day on inner-city streets while battling over turf. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have gone on education etc. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally the economy collapsed. Sound familiar?

China has recently been in negotiation with a number of countries, asking them to replace the Dollar with the Chinese Yuan as their reserve currency. This, when it happens, will remove the Federal Government's ability to keep printing cash to cover the trillions it costs to fund prohibition. It’ll mean true freedom but the transition period may well bring consequences that are far more horrific than a slasher movie. -- It never had to be this way; we should have learned our lesson from studying the mayhem that alcohol prohibition wreaked on us.

We all have our victories and defeats as regards fear, but most of us strive not to let fear rule our hearts or our minds. Being free means being free to live and love as if death and fear had no power over us. Freedom also means that we have an ethical and moral responsibility to expose blind hate, lies and ignorance by shining eternal light, truth and love, sending such dark forces fleeing to the shadows from whence they came.

We explore outer space with various forms of space craft, but many choose to explore inner space via nature's abundant chemistry - an infinite journey into the heart of God. Whatever, we are here to explore this glorious universe. The Prohibitionist's brand of hateful, choking pseudo-Conservatism is the antithesis of all that. Like a lion who cannot grasp that he can do more than walk in a circle the size of the cage he's recently been freed from, the prohibitionist is incapable of exploration beyond the boundaries of his own fear, prejudice and loathing. We are all free to choose how we walk our own path, but when we choose to go beyond this by supporting drug-war demagoguery, to the point of even threatening others with imprisonment and physical violence, we loose the right to expect any form of respect from the once free and prosperous society that we are helping to totally destroy.

Thanks to prohibition we're about to lose all semblance of that once ordered, prosperous and safe society. Myself, along with many others, have been debating prohibitionists on this for many years. We have shown what destruction prohibition has wrought on all the civil institutions of this once great nation, -we've always provided facts and statistics - they, the prohibitionists, have countered with either lies, personal abuse or even serious threats of violence.

Ending the insanity of drug prohibition by legalized regulation, respecting the rights of the responsible users and focusing on addiction as a sickness, like we do with alcohol and tobacco, may save what remains of our economy and civil institutions along with countless lives and livelihoods. Prohibition continues unabated for shameful political reasons. It cannot, and never will, reduce drug use or addiction.

Prohibition has permanently scarred our national character as well as our individual psyches. Our national policies and cultural practices have become pervaded by the fascistic, prohibitionist mind-set which has turned our domestic police force into a bunch of paramilitary thugs who often commit extra-judicial beatings and executions while running roughshod over our rights in order to "protect us from ourselves".

When we eventually manage to put the horrors of this moronothon behind us, we'll need to engage in some very deep and honest soul-searching as to what we want to be as a nation. Many of our freedoms have been severely circumscribed or lost altogether, our economy has been trashed and our international reputation for being "free and fair" has been dragged through a putrid sewer by vicious narrow-minded drug warrior zealots who are ignorant of abstract concepts such as truth, justice and decency. We'll need to make sure that such a catastrophe is never ever repeated. This may mean that public hearings or tribunals will be held where those who’ve been the instigators and cheerleaders of this abomination will have to answer for their serious crimes against our once prosperous and proud nation.

Each day you remain silent, you help to destroy the Constitution, fill the prisons with our children, and empower terrorists and criminals worldwide while wasting hundreds of billions of your own tax dollars. Prohibition bears many strong and startling similarities to Torquemada­'s inquisition­, it's supporters are servants of tyranny and hate. If you're aware of but not enraged by it's shear waste and cruel atrocities then both your heart and soul must surely be dead.

Prohibition engendered black market profits are obscenely huge. Remove this and you remove the ability to bribe or threaten any government official or even whole governments. The argument that legalized regulation won't severely cripple organized crime is truly bizarre. Of course, the bad guys won't just disappear, but if you severely diminish their income, you also severely diminish their power. The proceeds from theft, extortion, pirated goods etc. are a drop in the ocean compared to what can be earned by selling prohibited/unregulated drugs in a black market estimated to be worth 400,000 million dollars. Without the lure and power of so much easy capital, it's also very unlikely that new criminal enterprises will fill the void left by those you disrupt or entirely eradicate.

Millions of fearless North Africans have recently shown us that recognizing oppression also carries the weight of responsibility to act upon and oppose that oppression.

The drug czar's office is not only unnecessary but also the greatest waste of space since vows of fidelity were included in the christian marriage service.

Here are just some of the many studies the Feds wish they'd never commissioned:


A massive study of California HMO members funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found marijuana use caused no significant increase in mortality. Tobacco use was associated with increased risk of death. Sidney, S et al. Marijuana Use and Mortality. American Journal of Public Health
. Vol. 87 No. 4, April 1997. p. 585-590. Sept. 2002.


Veterans Affairs scientists looked at whether heavy marijuana use as a young adult caused long-term problems later, studying identical twins in which one twin had been a heavy marijuana user for a year or longer but had stopped at least one month before the study, while the second twin had used marijuana no more than five times ever. Marijuana use had no significant impact on physical or mental health care utilization, health-related quality of life, or current socio-demographic characteristics. Eisen SE et al. Does Marijuana Use Have Residual Adverse Effects on Self-Reported Health Measures, Socio-Demographics or Quality of Life? A Monozygotic Co-Twin Control Study in Men. Addiction. Vol. 97 No. 9. p.1083-1086. Sept. 1997


Marijuana is often called a "gateway drug" by supporters of prohibition, who point to statistical "associations" indicating that persons who use marijuana are more likely to eventually try hard drugs than those who never use marijuana - implying that marijuana use somehow causes hard drug use. But a model developed by RAND Corp. researcher Andrew Morral demonstrates that these associations can be explained "without requiring a gateway effect." More likely, this federally funded study suggests, some people simply have an underlying propensity to try drugs, and start with what's most readily available. Morral AR, McCaffrey D and Paddock S. Reassessing the Marijuana Gateway Effect. Addiction. December 2002. p. 1493-1504.


The White House had the National Research Council examine the data being gathered about drug use and the effects of U.S. drug policies. NRC concluded, "the nation possesses little information about the effectiveness of current drug policy, especially of drug law enforcement." And what data exist show "little apparent relationship between severity of sanctions prescribed for drug use and prevalence or frequency of use." In other words, there is no proof that prohibition - the cornerstone of U.S. drug policy for a century - reduces drug use. National Research Council. Informing America's Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don't Know Keeps Hurting Us. National Academy Press, 2001. p. 193.

05) PROHIBITION MAY CAUSE THE "GATEWAY EFFECT"?): U.S. and Dutch researchers, supported in part by NIDA, compared marijuana users in San Francisco, where non-medical use remains illegal, to Amsterdam, where adults may possess and purchase small amounts of marijuana from regulated businesses. Looking at such parameters as frequency and quantity of use and age at onset of use, they found the following: Cannabis (Marijuana) use in San Francisco was 3 times the prevalence found in the Amsterdam sample. And lifetime use of hard drugs was significantly lower in Amsterdam, with its "tolerant" marijuana policies. For example, lifetime crack cocaine use was 4.5 times higher in San Francisco than Amsterdam. Reinarman, C, Cohen, PDA, and Kaal, HL. The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and San Francisco. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 94, No. 5. May 2004. p 836-842.


Federal researchers implanted several types of cancer, including leukemia and lung cancers, in mice, then treated them with cannabinoids (unique, active components found in marijuana). THC and other cannabinoids shrank tumors and increased the mice's lifespans. Munson, AE et al. Antineoplastic Activity of Cannabinoids. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Sept. 1975. p. 597-602.


In a 1994 study the government tried to suppress, federal researchers gave mice and rats massive doses of THC, looking for cancers or other signs of toxicity. The rodents given THC lived longer and had fewer cancers, "in a dose-dependent manner" (i.e. the more THC they got, the fewer tumors). NTP Technical Report On The Toxicology And Carcinogenesis Studies Of 1-Trans- Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, CAS No. 1972-08-3, In F344/N Rats And B6C3F Mice, Gavage Studies. See also, "Medical Marijuana: Unpublished Federal Study Found THC-Treated Rats Lived Longer, Had Less Cancer," AIDS Treatment News no. 263, Jan. 17, 1997.


Researchers at the Kaiser-Permanente HMO, funded by NIDA, followed 65,000 patients for nearly a decade, comparing cancer rates among non-smokers, tobacco smokers, and marijuana smokers. Tobacco smokers had massively higher rates of lung cancer and other cancers. Marijuana smokers who didn't also use tobacco had no increase in risk of tobacco-related cancers or of cancer risk overall. In fact their rates of lung and most other cancers were slightly lower than non-smokers, though the difference did not reach statistical significance. Sidney, S. et al. Marijuana Use and Cancer Incidence (California, United States). Cancer Causes and Control. Vol. 8. Sept. 1997, p. 722-728.


Donald Tashkin, a UCLA researcher whose work is funded by NIDA, did a case-control study comparing 1,200 patients with lung, head and neck cancers to a matched group with no cancer. Even the heaviest marijuana smokers had no increased risk of cancer, and had somewhat lower cancer risk than non-smokers (tobacco smokers had a 20-fold increased Lung Cancer risk). Tashkin D. Marijuana Use and Lung Cancer: Results of a Case-Control Study. American Thoracic Society International Conference. May 23, 2006.


In response to passage of California's medical marijuana law, the White House had the Institute of Medicine (IOM) review the data on marijuana's medical benefits and risks. The IOM concluded, "Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana." The report also added, "we acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting." The government's refusal to acknowledge this finding caused co-author John A. Benson to tell the New York Times that the government "loves to ignore our report … they would rather it never happened." Joy, JE, Watson, SJ, and Benson, JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. National Academy Press. 1999. p. 159. See also, Harris, G. FDA Dismisses Medical Benefit From Marijuana. New York Times. Apr. 21, 2006

The American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, National Academy of HIV Medicine, two former U.S. surgeon generals, and hundreds of other medical professional groups all say that marijuana should be available to patients whose doctors recommend it.

We here in Montana are suffering from the defacto legalization of Marijuana. Our state has a population of about one million people. Last year alone we had 39 marijuana related traffic fatalities. We now have marijuana storefronts that normalize a drug culture to our kids, they are all over our towns and some are placed within 1,000 feet of our schools. We have 28,000 marijuana cards, we are known by other states as a "source country" for pot due to our large grow houses. Colorado and California are totally unable to regulate this industry. The judges over turn limits and restrictions under the guise of Medicine.

Maryland BEWARE drugs should go through pharmacies. Every state that has fallen for this "medical" lie gets all out legalization. Every state that falls for this mess has their youth inundated with messages that pot is an herbal safe medicine, never mind the staggering 30 percent youth addiction rate. Never mind it is the number one drug for which kids are in treatment. Stop this Plague!

For the love of God/Allah/Buddha: Just legalize it already. No more studies, no more delay, not even this "medical use only" nonsense.

Just legalize it. Period. Full stop.

Last year alone we had 39 marijuana related traffic fatalities.
I say you lie, provide the links,or go back under your rock.

Why would law enforcement have a seat at the table for a medical decision? They want to protect their turf and jobs.

Legalization would hurt the prison industry, the police departments, the DEA, and the judicial system by not having a need for so many "Public Servants" sucking up the taxpayers dollars on a failed policy.

Maybe at that point we could reign in some of the thugs in their combat gear that call their self's policemen while doing commando style raids against non-violent American citizens sitting in the living rooms relaxing after a hard days work generating tax revenue for the government that oppresses them.

Just legalize pot so I can light up in peace on my deck.

Here's my quick and to-the-point personal thought on this issue:
I lost an eye to congenital glaucoma 50 years ago, and the only
medicine that has relieved the constant pain AS WELL AS the subsequent and significant reduction of my inneroccular pressure (my medical records
backup this claim), happens to be one that I must obtain through a rather
frightening black market here in Baltimore.

"Why don't you grow your own?" I asked myself, then proceeding to produce ONE MEASLY PLANT A YEAR FOR MY PERSONAL MEDICAL USE- never selling
or gifting my harvest to anyone, ever.

The reward for my self determination, alieviation of pain, a halt to the horrible procurement process along with my embrace of the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are arrest, humiliation and a felony
charge of "Manufacturing and Distribution" due to the
current law's archaic and unjust wording.
I now face more jail time than someone who committed a
violent and heinous act against his fellow man.

Do I support change of ANY kind to the present law? The answer would
have to be a resounding D'UH!

As conservative as I am, I don't have any problems with medical marijuana use. I think if it works for someone, it is no different than using narcotic pain medications.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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