More than four years after the General Assembly passed a new law making medical marijuana legal in Maryland, cannabis is now widely available for medical purposes in the state.

The delays in making medical marijuana available were due to the time it took to build up an industry from the growers and the processors to doctors and dispensaries who recommend and sell the drug. The law was tweaked and Maryland saw legal battles after the General Assembly allowed the use of pot for medical purposes in 2013.

Maryland’s original medical marijuana law stalled because it required academic medical centers to run programs, and none volunteered. The law was amended in 2014 to allow doctors certified by a state commission to recommend marijuana for patients with debilitating, severe and chronic illnesses.

Baltimore criminal defense lawyer Randolph Rice answers common questions that persist surrounding the legality of medical marijuana in Maryland.

Does Marijuana Have Health Benefits?

Cannabis is prescribed to people with certain medical conditions who would benefit from cannabis. Marijuana has more than 20 positive health benefits, according to Business Insider.

Most importantly, it contains cannabidiol (CBD) — which appears to impact the brain without a high. The second important constituent is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has pain-relieving properties and is largely responsible for the high.

While cannabis is linked to the relief of chronic and serious conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and depression, it is also linked to some adverse effects like elevating bipolar conditions, reports Medical News Today.

Who Can Medical Marijuana Be Prescribed to in Maryland?

Under Maryland state law, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission “is encouraged to approve” medical marijuana recommendations for the following groups:

  • Patients who suffer from a chronic or debilitating disease with symptoms that include severe nausea; cachexia, anorexia, or wasting syndrome; chronic pain; seizures; or severe and ongoing muscle spasms. These symptoms may also be a result of treatment for a condition.
  • Patients with chronic or debilitating medical conditions or diseases who have been admitted to a hospice or are receiving palliative care;
  • Patients diagnosed with any condition that is acute, for which other medical treatments proved to be ineffective, and for which the symptoms “reasonably can be expected to be relieved” by the medical use of cannabis.
  • The commission lists glaucoma and post-traumatic stress disorder as qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana.

How Do I Get a Written Certification for Medical Marijuana in Maryland?

To receive a written certification for medical marijuana, you must initially register online as a patient with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

What Information Must be Supplied to Get a Written Certification for Medical Marijuana?

Patients who want to use medical marijuana in Maryland must submit:

  • A proof of their address;
  • An electronic copy of a government-issued photo identification such as a passport, a military identification or a driver’s license;
  • A recent photo that’s clearly the patient who is making the application;
  • The last four numbers of their social security number;
  • Patients under 18 can only obtain medical marijuana if a parent or legal guardian over the age of 21 registers as a caregiver with the commission.

After providing this documentation to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, patients must obtain a written certification, which is a recommendation, from a provider registered with the commission.

The provider requires the patient’s commission-issued Patient ID number to issue a certification via the commission’s secure online application process. When a certification is not used to purchase medical cannabis within a 120-day period, it becomes null and void.

Patients can buy ID cards for $50 from the commission after they receive a written certification. ID cards are needed to buy medical marijuana in Maryland.

Can Patients Who Do Not Live in Maryland Receive Medical Marijuana?

Non-Maryland residents who are in Maryland receiving medical treatment are eligible to register with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission to receive medical marijuana.

How Many People Receive Medical Marijuana in Maryland?

Since medical marijuana became legal in Maryland four years ago, more than 17,000 people in Maryland have registered to use cannabis to alleviate a wide range of health conditions, reported the Baltimore Sun.

Can Any Doctor Recommend Marijuana in Maryland?

No. Just as patients who want to use medical marijuana must be registered, doctors and other medical providers who recommend medical cannabis to patients must be registered with the commission.

Over 500 providers, including doctors, nurses, and dentists, have signed on to the program, according to the commission.

MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, compiled a list of member doctors by regions in the state who are licensed by both the Board of Physicians and the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission. MarijuanaDoctors.com also provides a list of verified medical marijuana doctors in the State of Maryland.

Can Doctors Prescribe Medical Marijuana?

No. it is illegal for doctors to prescribe medical cannabis under federal law in the same way as they write prescriptions for traditional medications. Doctors and other healthcare providers may only recommend or issue written certifications for medical marijuana in Maryland.

Where Can Legal Marijuana Be Bought in Maryland?

The Baltimore Sun reports the state has 102 approved dispensaries but 34 have opened to date. Another dozen have been approved and more are expected to open in the next few weeks and months.

Under Maryland law, there can be no more than two dispensaries in each of the state’s 47 legislative districts. However, licensed growers may also hold dispensary licenses.

Can I Buy Medical Marijuana in Maryland on My Health Insurance?

There is no obligation on health insurance companies to cover medical cannabis costs. However, some private health insurers are developing policies that will cover medical cannabis as more and more states legalize it.

Many supporters of medical marijuana have been disappointed by the refusal of the health insurers to cover the use of medical cannabis. MarijuanaBreak states the question of whether health insurance companies cover the drug is repeatedly asked by users. The answer is a resounding no. The publication states insurance companies are afraid to cover pot use, even for use by extremely ill people.

What Are the Implications in Maryland of the Federal Government Classifying Pot as Illegal?

If you purchase medical marijuana in Maryland, you cannot travel to other states with the drug bought in Maryland. Although the Transportation Security Administration does not screen for marijuana, it likely will be confiscated if it is discovered during a search.

Most federal law enforcement agencies have not intruded on the states’ handling of the majority of marijuana cases. However, possessing marijuana on federal property can land you in trouble with the law.

How Much Medical Marijuana Can You Possess in Maryland?

Patients are allowed to carry up to 120 grams (about four ounces of cannabis) unless a doctor determines a patient needs more. Patients are allowed up to 36 grams of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) a month.

What Form Can Legal Medical Marijuana Be Sold in Maryland?

As well as the dried plant, dispensaries in Maryland offer liquids oils, concentrates, wax, topical ointments, pills, and accessories. Some extracts may be added to foods at home, but Maryland dispensaries do not sell edible marijuana products.

Can You Be Charged With Possession of Medical Marijuana in Maryland?

If you are caught in possession of marijuana in Maryland you can face criminal sanctions. You will not be convicted if you can prove you have possession of medical marijuana for a severe illness or a condition that meets the medical pot criteria. The fact medical marijuana is legal in Maryland means defendants are permitted to introduce evidence that they possessed or used marijuana out of medical necessity. When a court determines that the defendant possessed or used marijuana out of medical necessity, it will dismiss the charges for marijuana possession.

People who claim they possess marijuana for medicinal use should demonstrate that they have one of the conditions that the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission is encouraged to allow the drug for and they received a written certification for medical marijuana.

What is the Penalty for Possession of Marijuana in Maryland?

If you are found to be in possession of marijuana and a court finds the drug is not for a medical purpose, you will usually be charged with a misdemeanor crime in Maryland. The penalties for a first offense include up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines.

Will I Commit a Criminal Offense for the Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana in Maryland?

If you are caught in illegal possession of less than 10 grams of cannabis in Maryland, the offense becomes civil and the penalties are less severe. For these civil offenses, the penalties are as follows:

  • A first offense is punishable by $100 in fines;
  • A subsequent possession offense is punishable by a maximum of $250 in fines;
  • A third offense is punishable by a maximum of $500 in fines.

I Was Stopped by Law Enforcement. Do I Have to Disclose my Possession of Medical Marijuana?

Patients do not have to consent to a search, nor is there an obligation to disclose the fact they possess medical marijuana. If medical cannabis is found on them during a search, the patient should present their patient ID card or direct police officers to the marijuana commission’s database.

What Happens if I Am Caught Driving Under the Influence of Medical Marijuana in Maryland?

If you are driving a vehicle under the influence of drugs because marijuana impaired your ability to drive a vehicle safely, you can be charged with a DUI, even if you are using legal medical marijuana. For a first offense, an offender may be sentenced to a jail term of two months up to one or fined up to $1,000. Offenders can face a license suspension period of up to 45 days. Increased penalties for DUI were imposed in 2016, states Maryland Department of Transportation.

How Many States Have Legalized Recreational Marijuana and Could Maryland Be Next?

Nine States and Washington D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21 and medical marijuana is legal in 29 states. In 2017, several Democratic state lawmakers introduced a bill to the General Assembly session to hold a statewide referendum on whether to legalize recreational marijuana use in Maryland, while regulating and taxing the drug. The bill didn’t make much headway but is expected to return in some form.

Contact an Experienced Maryland Drugs Defense Lawyer

The drug laws in Maryland can be complicated. If you have been arrested for possession of marijuana but believe you have a defense because medical marijuana is legal in Maryland, you should contact an experienced Baltimore drug possession lawyer as soon as possible. Call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice today at (410) 694-7291 or contact us online.