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Tony Bowles was a plaintiff in ASA’s successful lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol. He has taken action time and time again on behalf of patients in need of medical marijuana. He now lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he is working hard to help improve Maryland’s medical marijuana law. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year’s attempt to introduce HB 1040, The Maryland Compassionate Use Act, which would have replaced the current law with comprehensive language concerning cultivation, identification cards, confidentiality issues, fees, transportation, and possession, was blocked by Chair of the Judiciary, Joseph Vallario. The very same lawmaker who gutted the 2003 legislation. Despite the fact that we had more than enough support in the Judiciary Committee to pass the new law with improvements, Chairman Vallario wouldn’t put the improved legislation up for vote. Why? Because he’s still worried that letting qualified individuals suffering from severe or chronic illness use medical marijuana will bring the wrath of the Federal Government down on Maryland. He even said way back in 2002 “I am not going to have a part in something that is in violation of federal law.”
This year we’re taking a new approach in Maryland to help tackle this problem. I am working with ASA and the Drug Policy Alliance to build up grassroots support to compliment our next legislative efforts. We’ll be focusing on recruitment, training, and developing strong, vocal and representative leadership that will be crucial for helping policymakers move far-reaching legislation aimed at establishing full legal protections for Maryland’s most vulnerable citizens and the people who care for them.
Between now and early spring we will hold several regional teach-ins and know your rights trainings. These forums will provide an opportunity to introduce patients, their care providers and other grassroots supporters to each other, briefly recap previous efforts to improve the law, and explain the strategy and tactics while covering all of the basic legal information for interactions with law enforcement. We are hoping to bring interested medical marijuana supporters to Annapolis for a tour of the Capital where they can take advantage of the activity of the legislative session, meet their state lawmakers, deepen their understanding of the legislative process, and raise enthusiasm around working on a legislative campaign in the future.
Maryland’s existing medical marijuana law, “The Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act” does not go far enough; it slaps patients with a criminal conviction even if they successfully offer a medical necessity defense in court. This means that even a successful defense results in a permanent criminal record, which poses barriers to financial aid, housing, employment, and more. Maryland’s medical marijuana law is the only state medical marijuana law that does not shield patients from arrest! We need real compassion and honest protection now!