At least that's the point a handful of lobbyists made Tuesday in Annapolis when lawmakers discussed a bill that would partially lift the state's ban on raw milk sales.
Maryland lawmakers are considering a measure to allow dairy farmers to sell unpasteurized milk, but only to consumers who have part ownership of the cows. The exemption would still prevent raw milk from being sold to restaurants, grocery stores or wholesalers.
If this sounds familiar, that may be because raw milk advocates have come before the legislature in some shape or form for several years.
This time the bipartisan herders are Del. Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, and House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena. Kipke, who said the idea of raw milk doesn't appeal to him, doesn't see a reason why other people shouldn't have a way to drink it.
"We're moving toward decriminalizing marijuana," Kipke said, so "I don't think Maryland should stand in the way of allowing someone to purchase something that provides them with a health benefit."
He said constituents, such as a Naval Academy athlete and people who have suffered from digestive issues, have asked him for this legislation, saying milk that comes straight from the cow can be good for you.
They're part of a substantial national movement of consumers who want to drink milk the way their ancestors did. Their enthusiasm is tied to the growing interest in natural and organic products and support for local farmers.
Patrick Crawford, who has an Annapolis law office, said he's been driving to Pennsylvania for the past 5 ½ years to get unprocessed milk. He enjoys the taste.
If people can choose to eat raw meat and oysters, Kipke says, why not milk?
Today in Maryland it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption, except to a milk processor or for making cheese. State regulators require testing milk samples for drugs, bacteria and cooling temperatures.
Raw dairy products have not gone through pasteurization — a heating process — to rid the milk of pathogens.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe there's no nutritional difference after pasteurization. Moreover, the feds warn that raw milk could contain dangerous bacteria, such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter and Brucella.
David Crowl, a fifth generation dairy farmer in Harford County, said he does not drink his own unprocessed milk and doesn't think anyone should.
"The entire dairy industry suffers when there is a foodborne illness," said Crowl, who is on the Dairy Farmers of America board. "Believe you me, the sale of raw milk and the sale of a cow share is not going to save the family farm. I've got one. I know what I'm talking about."
Throughout the country, states have made different choices when it comes to raw milk. In 31 states, people can buy it at a farmers market or store, or through a cow share program, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures; the other 19 states prohibit all sales.
A federal study of unpasteurized milk-caused diseases found cases have increased over the years. Between 2007 and 2012, there were 81 outbreaks causing 979 illnesses. Though no one died, the illnesses led to 73 hospitalizations.
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The same study showed unpasteurized milk from a Pennsylvania farm in 2012 led to an outbreak that spread to other neighboring states, including reports in Maryland. It's illegal to transport raw milk across the state line.
Jason Schellhardt, a spokesman for the state's agriculture department, said the agency is not taking an official position on the bill, but sent a letter expressing concern. Maryland agriculture officials are worried about public safety and the potential ramifications for the dairy industry if an outbreak happens, Schellhardt said.
State officials say passing the bill would cost $92,000 a year to hire a health department epidemiologist and part-time lab scientist.
But Kipke said the fears may be over hyped, and consumers eat foods that have risks all the time.