Maryland Medical Marijuana Card >
Medical marijuana refers to the wide variety of Cannabis sativa derivatives that physicians consider beneficial to patients suffering from various illnesses and disorders. The cannabis plant has been known and used for its therapeutic benefits for centuries. Cannabis has dozens of compounds, but tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the best known. THC is found mainly in cannabis and is responsible for the intoxicating, mood-altering effects it induces in humans. Cannabidiol, on the other hand, is more abundant in hemp, and its effects are less psychoactive than THC's. It is non-intoxicating and has therapeutic effects that have been widely cited as medically beneficial.
The US federal law strictly prohibits the use of marijuana. The Controlled Substances Act enacted in 1970 included marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, which meant that the substance ostensibly had no medical value, could be abused by users, and was regarded as addictive.
Medical marijuana comes from the cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant. In many US states with medical marijuana programs, only CBD derived from industrial hemp is considered legal. CBD products derived from the marijuana variant of cannabis are illegal under federal law because marijuana has a higher THC content than hemp. Many US states approve only the medical use of cannabidiol oil and products with a THC content of less than 0.3 percent. Smokable medical marijuana is also made available to qualifying patients in rationed quantities.
Research has been conducted into the health benefits of cannabis since the 1940s. In recent years there has been renewed interest in the therapeutic use of marijuana and marijuana products for the treatment and alleviation of a range of illnesses from cancer to glaucoma, from epileptic seizures to Alzheimer's disease. Medical marijuana may take various forms: smokable dried marijuana, CBD oil, CBD-infused tablets, soaps, lotions, tinctures, gummies, cookies, or capsules.
The state of Maryland has made the use of marijuana legal only for medical purposes. A medical marijuana program was initiated in 2003 when Governor Martin O'Malley signed the Darrell Putnam Compassionate Act, or House Bill 702. The law guaranteed indemnity to Maryland residents who might be found possessing 10 grams or less of marijuana. A fine of $100 was listed as the maximum applicable levy payable by a Maryland resident charged with marijuana possession. HB 702 allowed an individual under risk of prosecution for marijuana possession to claim 'medical necessity' as an extenuating factor. The law also provided, by extension, legal immunity to Maryland doctors who might recommend medical marijuana to their patients. HB 702 defined 'usable marijuana' as comprising the flowers and leaves of the marijuana plant, as well as any derivatives which might be considered medically appropriate.
By 2013, the medical marijuana program further expanded access to Maryland residents when the Natalie M. La Parade Medical Marijuana Commission was set up by an Act of the Maryland House, HB 1101. Despite the passage of HB 1101, Maryland's medical marijuana program only became fully operational in 2017, with the establishment of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission is responsible for issuing licenses to growers and processors, issuing registration cards to patients and caregivers, inspecting laboratories involved in cannabis testing, and granting approval for academic research into medical marijuana.
In 2015, the Maryland State Senate passed SB 517. This law removed the threat of prosecution for Maryland residents possessing marijuana paraphernalia. It gave individuals the right to argue in their defense that they were in possession of marijuana paraphernalia for medical reasons, particularly in treating severe and 'debilitating' medical conditions previously untreatable with other therapies. SB 517 maintained that the smoking of marijuana in public was still an offense under Maryland law, punishable with a fine of $500.
Maryland's House Bill 490 of 2015 expanded the definition of a qualifying patient to include individuals voluntarily enrolled in academic cannabis research programs in the state. Such individuals would be entitled to medical marijuana doses as part of their therapy. HB 490 fixed the permissible quantity of medical marijuana available to a qualifying patient at any time at a “30-day supply”. However, allowances could be made for patients whose doctors believed they required more medical marijuana than the 30-day supply.
Maryland does not allow patients and their caregivers to cultivate marijuana at home. Only medical marijuana growers and processors licensed by the MMMC are authorized to grow the plant.
Maryland allows qualifying patients and their caregivers access to medical marijuana. As with several other states with medical marijuana programs, Maryland has a checklist of illnesses and disorders that qualify patients for medical marijuana access. These medical conditions and diseases include glaucoma, anorexia, chronic pain, chronic nausea, epileptic seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder, cachexia, or any other medical condition which has proved resistant to other treatments.
The provisions of HB 881 and SB 923 gave Maryland doctors the discretion to file applications that would allow them to recommend the use of medical marijuana for patients on a case-by-case basis. They also mandated parents or legal guardians of minor patients to act as their caregivers.
Individuals who intend to use medical marijuana must present the MMMC with a certified recommendation from a doctor or other medical practitioner. Maryland medical practitioners who intend to recommend medical marijuana to their patients must register with the MMMC. The passage in 2016 of House Bill 104 expanded the categories of Maryland medical practitioners allowed to approve the use of medical marijuana. Initially, only physicians had been able to issue recommendations, but the new law added dentists, midwives, podiatrists, and nurses. To issue certifications to patients, Maryland medical practitioners must have valid practicing licenses issued by the respective boards overseeing their particular specialties. Such State Boards include the Maryland Board of Dental Examiners, the Maryland Board of Physicians, the Maryland Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners, and the Maryland Board of Nursing.
Medical practitioners are required under Maryland law to register with the MMMC as Certifying Providers. They must have a genuine, pre-existing doctor-patient relationship with the individuals they certify. Such a relationship would invariably entail in-depth knowledge of the patient's medical history. The physician must certify that the patient's medical condition is chronic and unresponsive to other treatment methods besides medical marijuana.
A minor, legally an individual under 18 years, can register for a medical marijuana card in Maryland. The online registration process for minors under Maryland's medical marijuana program differs from that for adults. The law mandates that parents or legal guardians of minor patients act as their caregivers. Caregivers of minors will submit applications on behalf of their wards, and they must submit evidence that they are legally entitled to act on behalf of the named minor, whether as birth parents, adoptive parents, or legal guardians. The caregiver application must include a recent photograph of the minor and a notarized patient form for minors. The application process also requires the caregiver to provide the MMMC with the last four digits of the caregiver's Social Security Number, a recent color photograph, and the caregiver's ID number. A caregiver for a minor must register with the MMMC before registering the minor.
The Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission allows qualifying patients to designate caregivers. It is possible for a patient whose application has been approved to log in to their online account and fill in the name of a designated caregiver in the column provided.
It is important to note that the MMMC must approve caregivers before being designated by patients. In Maryland, a caregiver must be 21 years old or older. A qualifying patient has the right to list up to two caregivers. Caregiver duties involve being responsible for the purchase of medical cannabis from legal dispensaries and assisting patients in using marijuana. Minors who are qualifying patients are required to have at least one caregiver at all times and up to two caregivers. Caregivers may serve a maximum of five patients at a given time.
The Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission maintains an online registration portal for state residents who intend to apply for medical marijuana cards. As the application process is entirely online, patients or their caregivers are advised to prepare the mandatory documents in electronic versions.
Applicants must provide the MMMC with valid evidence that they are legal residents of Maryland. They will have to provide their Social Security Numbers in full. They are also required to have working email addresses and government-issued ID cards. The ID card may be one of the following: a State of Maryland driver's license, a US passport, or a military ID card.
Once an applicant has completed the online application process and created an account with the MMMC, a verification email will be sent to the email address provided by the applicant. The MMMC will send email notifications to applicants informing them of the success or failure of their applications. Successful applicants are given MMMC Patient ID numbers, without which a Maryland physician cannot issue a medical marijuana recommendation. The issuance of registration approval, and a physician’s certification, allow the patient to access and print a temporary MMMC ID.
Applicants for Maryland Medical Marijuana Cards are required to pay a fee of $50. The fee is non-refundable and is charged to the applicant's credit card. The state of Maryland waives the cost of medical marijuana cards for military veterans and individuals who qualify under the Maryland Medical Assistance Program.
To be able to purchase medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries in Maryland, patients or their caregivers must have at hand their MMMC ID cards. The dispensary agent will check the MMMC's online database to verify the validity of the ID card. Only after this verification is done will the patient or caregiver be allowed to purchase up to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana.
The Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission requires patients resident in the state to renew their medical marijuana cards every three years. Designated caregivers have to renew their cards every two years. As with the original registration, the renewal process equally takes place online. The patient or caregiver will log in to their MMMC account and initiate the renewal process. A renewal fee of $50 will be charged.
Cannabis contains the intoxicant substance THC, which can lead to overdose when consumed for medical or recreational purposes. Cannabis overdoses are severe but rarely considered life-threatening by medical experts. High doses of marijuana have the potential to result in fatal accidents as well as other serious health problems. It is generally agreed that cannabis ingested by smoking is less likely to lead to overdoses and intoxication than cannabis consumed in edible forms, such as cookies infused with the substance. The state of Maryland restricts its qualifying patients to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana at each purchase unless there are valid, physician-certified reasons to increase the quantity.
A 2020 report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), stated that nausea and vomiting were among the most common reasons why pregnant women in the US consumed marijuana. However, medical authorities warn against using cannabis to treat nausea during pregnancy. Cannabis use poses risks to the fetus and is said to be a causative factor in neurological dysfunction in children and adolescents whose mothers may have used the substance during pregnancy.
When the Maryland House of Representatives passed HB 925 in 2021, the bill provided for the establishment of a workgroup on the use of medical cannabis by pregnant and nursing women in Maryland. The workgroup was tasked with examining the long-term physiological effects of medical cannabis on both the would-be or nursing mother and the fetal or young child.
The Maryland Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) opposed House Bill 925 and its workgroup. It released a statement expressing its stance against the use of medical cannabis by pregnant or lactating women. Some potential effects of using cannabis while pregnant include:
Low birth weight
Poor brain development
Delayed motor maturation in nursing infants
Small head size