House committees weigh medical marijuana defense
Delegates say they want to rewrite a Senate plan to decriminalize marijuana for medical patients, though many expressed support for the overall concept.
In a combined hearing today of the House Government Operations and Judiciary committees, delegates pressed the Senate bill sponsors -- Republican Sen. David Brinkley and Democratic Sen. Jamie Raskin, both cancer survivors -- on the practical implications of the proposal.
Lawyers on the Judiciary Committee said they want to reduce the burden of proof required to show medical necessity from "clear and convincing evidence" to a "preponderance of the evidence." Such a change would align medical necessity with other forms of affirmative defense, such as self defense.
Many of the same delegates said they want to strip the Senate bill of details about what kinds of evidence could be presented in court. The Senate plan says a person claiming medical necessity may use a doctor's note, medical records or the the doctor in person. Delegates argued the general rules of evidence should be applied and that lawmakers should not be laying out a special list of evidence.
Delegates also said they'd like prosecutors to be given two weeks notice when a person plan to use medical necessity as a defense to marijuana possession charges. Others said lawmakers should consider limited the amount of the drug that can be claimed as use for medical reasons.
The senators who presented the bill, which won 41-6 passage in the Senate, said they were amenable to the suggestions.
Both chambers have already agreed to a comprehensive study of how to implement a medical marijuana system, but the two chambers have just over a week to work out differences on the affirmative defense concept. Medical marijuana is legal in 15 states and the District of Columbia.