Senate panel advances new medical marijuana plan

Nearly 100 medical marijuana dispensaries could be opened across Maryland under a bill approved by a key Senate committee Tuesday.

The measure approved 10-1 by the Judicial Proceedings Committee would create a medical marijuana program significantly different than the version approved by the House of Delegates. The House plan calls for 10 licensed pot growers that would also operate all dispensaries.

Senators said they worried the House version would create a monopoly of pot growers who could control medical marijuana prices and wield considerable political power. Instead, the Senate committee advanced a bill that calls for growers and dispensaries to be completely separate and requires at least 94 dispensaries to be operated across the state.

Maryland lawmakers approved the state's first medical marijuana program last year, but it failed to get off the ground. The program relied on the state's academic centers to administer it, but none volunteered.

The full Senate could take an initial vote on its medical marijuana proposal as soon as Wednesday.

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