Both houses of the Maryland state legislature have approved a bill to allow medical marijuana for limited purposes.
On Monday, the state Senate approved the bill by a 42-4 margin; Governor Martin O’Malley is expected to sign it.
Instead of allowing dispensaries as other states (most recently Massachusetts) have done, the Maryland bill would authorize “academic centers” throughout the Old Line State to administer the drug with the purpose of studying its effects. The law would require a preliminary study and would not go fully into effect until 2016.
While moderate in its policy proposals, the Maryland bill is nonetheless significant for the legislative channels which produced it; while states like California, Washington, and Colorado have registered stunning victories at the ballot box, reform has moved more slowly through state legislatures. Nevertheless, recent years have seen medical marijuana reform passed by the legislatures of Hawai’i (2000), Vermont (2004), Rhode Island (2006), New Mexico (2007), New Jersey (2010), Delaware (2011), and Connecticut (2012).
And now Maryland. While the governor’s vote is not certain, and the aims of the bill modest, this week’s historic vote nonetheless shows how rapidly public opinion has shifted from even a decade ago, when few elected officials ever had the courage to endorse meaningful reform.
Next up: Washington, D.C.