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House of Delegates advances medical marijuana bill

The House of Delegates gave preliminary approval Saturday to legislation that would liberalize its current law allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

 The legislation, sponsored by Baltimore County Democratic Del. Dan K. Morhaim, would replace a system created last year that is now widely regarded as a failure. Under that system, medical marijuana can only be prescribed through a program run by an academic medical center. After the law took effect last year, no medical center agreed to participate, making it impossible for patients to gain legal access to the drug.

Lawmakers this year have heard extensive testimony about the possible benefits of marijuana to patients suffering from epilepsy, the side-effects of chemotherapy, auto-immune disorders and other conditions. The bill would allow qualifying physicians to write marijuana prescriptions to patients with certain conditions outside the medical center setting.

The preliminary approval came after delegates voted 82-33 to reject an amendment that would have added a level of reporting procedures to the bill that proponents considered unworkable. The margin indicates the measure has more than enough support to pass when it comes to a final vote -- most likely Monday.


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