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Md. Committee Hears Medical Marijuana Testimony

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Under current Maryland law, using marijuana with a medical excuse is limited to a $100 fine.
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Under current Maryland law, using marijuana with a medical excuse is limited to a $100 fine.

The bill would replace Maryland's current law, which limits sentencing to a $100 fine for anyone caught using marijuana with a medical excuse. It would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for patients with chronic pain or illness and would set up a network of state-registered growers and dispensaries.

Barry Considine suffers from a number of chronic motion restricting illnesses. He says for him marijuana is safer and less intrusive then the drugs legally available.

"I have been told by my doctors to stop taking vicodin, to stop taking flexeril," he says. "I have personally stopped taking my arthritis drugs because they're so hard on my stomach. If I can use cannabis, I don't need those drugs."

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein is chief of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In testimony Monday, Sharfstein, made it clear the O'Malley administration opposes the new bill. He says it could prove too costly for taxpayers to implement.

"This legislation would take years to implement. This is not a quick-fix bill for somebody who is standing out in the hall who says 'I need this yesterday,'" he says.

Sharfstein recommends a more measured approach designed to further study the physical and economic impact of marijuana before attempting to move forward with full legalization of it's medical use.

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