Up in smoke?

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The current cover story in our Baltimore issue focuses on the issue of legalizing medical marijuana in Maryland. When we reported the story, legislators in the General Assembly were grappling with whether Maryland should become the 16th state (plus the District of Columbia) to legalize dispensing of marijuana for such serious medical conditions as cancer or glaucoma.

Since the issue was published, the legislation has changed. This week, the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill that would create an 18-member panel to advise the legislature on the best way to create a medical marijuana program — rather than setting up an actual program this year. The Maryland Senate recently passed a similar measure asking for more study. It would  also allow patients who use marijuana to treat medical conditions to use a “medical necessity” defense in court if they are arrested for drug possession.

Although I’m a pretty opinionated person, I’m torn on this issue. On one hand, there are many desperately ill patients who are seeking any avenue they can to get relief from their pain or nausea. But they would face criminal charges if they bought marijuana under current law. More study would only delay possible legalization and help for these patients.

At the same time, the dispensing of medical marijuana would be a complex program to set up and oversee, rife with the potential for abuse. In a cash-strapped budget climate, this may not be something legislators are willing to fund.

How do you feel about the issue of medical marijuana? Weigh in in the comments section below.