What is Medical Marijuana or MMJ?

MMJ refers to the use of cannabis and its constituent cannabinoids as medical therapy to treat disease or alleviate symptoms.

How many states have medical marijuana laws?

20 states, as well as Washington, DC, have medical marijuana laws. 

Is it federally legal to use MMJ?

Federally, it is illegal to use, possess, and research all marijuana, including for medical purposes. In August of 2013, Dr. Sanjay Gupta changed his mind on medical marijuana explaining, “The Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, claiming it has no accepted medicinal use and it has a high potential for abuse… I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have ‘no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse’. They didn't have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true.”

A memo was issued by Deputy AG James Cole to US Attorneys on August 29, 2013 that implemented a “trust but verify” policy. It explained that the federal government will permit states to regulate their own medical cannabis programs without interference so long as state law complies with new Department of Justice guidelines.

Can doctors prescribe MMJ in states that have legalized medical cannabis?

It is illegal Federally to “prescribe” cannabis, but the states that have legalized medical cannabis do allow physicians to “recommend” cannabis for their patients.


What is Governor O’Malley’s position on the existing law, House Bill (HB) 1101?

At The Steiner Show Annapolis Summit on January 8, 2014, when asked about what the state is doing to improve access of medical marijuana to patients, Governor O’Malley stated “Our hope is that if there is something that has made this too cumbersome to move it forward in the context of medical marijuana, that we can fix that during this legislative session.”

What does HB1101 say?

This law allows for the research and use of marijuana for medical purposes.  The law establishes the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission to (1) develop requests for applications for academic medical centers to operate programs in the State; (2) approve or deny initial and renewal program applications; and (3) monitor and oversee programs approved operation.

How many patients have had access to MMJ since it was it was signed into law on May 2, 2013?

Zero, as no academic medical centers have signed up to participate. Although the bill was only effective October 2013, Delegate Morhaim has spoken to the CEOs of all the Maryland academic medical centers and they have stated that they will not participate.  There is discussion about the centers’ concern that their Federal funding being at risk due to the fact that marijuana is illegal on the Federal level.

Did the General Assembly know the academic medical center model could be a challenge?

Yes.  Per the Fiscal and Policy note on the bill, “the earliest patients could benefit through academic medical centers is FY 2016.”  It went on to say, “Because academic medical center program participation is expected be low (or nonexistent), fees generated under the bill are unlikely to offset the administrative costs for the commission (as the bill requires).


Will a child get high when taking medical marijuana?

No, a child will not get high if they take the proper strain.  The strain used for children is low THC, the compound in cannabis that's psychoactive. It is also high in CBD, which has medicinal properties but no psycho-activity.

Does a child need any THC for medicinal purposes?

Yes, anecdotal evidence has shown that a little THC can help manage seizures.

What form does medical marijuana take for children?

The plant is ground and heated into an oil or tincture.  They do not smoke it; therefore pediatric MMJ is not carcinogenic.The plant can be ground and heated into an oil or tincture. It can be juiced from the raw plant. It can be extracted for THC-a. It can also be delivered in the form of capsules, oil, vaporizer, edibles, etc. Regardless, they do not smoke it; therefore pediatric MMJ is not carcinogenic.

How long has MMJ been on the radar screens of scientists?

Research dates back to at least as early as 1944 when New York Academy of Medicine issued an extensively researched report declaring that, contrary to earlier research and popular belief, use of marijuana did not induce violence, insanity or sex crimes, or lead to addiction or other drug use.  Research has been limited in recent decades as it has been illegal Federally to research marijuana.

Is there a high risk of abuse and addiction for medical marijuana?

When speaking about medical marijuana, Dr. Sanjay Gupta said, “It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications”.  He continues to explain the following conclusions from the 1944 study by the New York Academy of Science:  “they found marijuana did not lead to significant addiction in the medical sense of the word.  They also did not find any evidence marijuana led to morphine, heroin or cocaine addiction.” 

Won’t this be a gateway drug for kids?

We are not aware of any evidence that medical cannabis is a gateway drug.  The Institute of Medicine published in its March 1999 report titled "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base:  "In fact, most drug users do not begin their drug use with marijuana--they begin with alcohol and nicotine, usually when they are too young to do so legally… There is no evidence that marijuana serves as a stepping stone on the basis of its particular physiological effect.” 

These children are often on much more harmful drugs such as benzodiazepines, opiates, barbiturates, Valium, steroids, and other antidepressants and sedatives. The side effects of these prescription drugs include liver damage, brain damage, kidney stones, developmental delay, insomnia, rashes, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, pancreatitis, and even death. Per Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “someone dies in the United States every 19 minutes from a prescription drug overdose, mostly accidental.  As much as I searched, I could not find a documented case of death from marijuana overdose”.

Is there any research to back the claim of medical marijuana’s efficacy?

Research in the United States has previously been limited because of its status as a Schedule 1 drug; however, the good news is, because of observational studies, exceptional anecdotal evidence, and growing number of respected physicians who support MMJ, the medical community is anxious to pursue more data. 

Dr. Margaret Gedde,  of the Clinicians’ Institute for Cannabis Medicine, Gedde Whole Health LLC and Realm of Caring Foundation and Dr. Edward Maa of University of Colorado School of Medicine, did a study of eleven patients.  The study showed that parents reported 100% of patients “reported reduction in weekly frequency of motor type seizures…Of the 11, 8 reported 98-100% reduction, 1 reported 75% reduction, and 2 reported 20-45% reduction in weekly seizures relative to baseline at the end of three months.”

Dr. Elizabeth Anne Thiele, Director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Service at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Professor in Neurology at Harvard Medical School, stated “Based on a review of the literature and first-hand experience treating pediatric epilepsy patients, it is my opinion that medical marijuana—and, particularly, the non-psychoactive ingredient in medical marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD)—may have substantial medical benefit for pediatric epilepsy patients, as well as significantly fewer adverse side effects than many of the other anti-epileptic therapies available today.”

An FDA approved study is now underway.  A listing of some of these studies can be found at PubMed, a service of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=cannabidiol+epilepsy .

Why does it work?

Dr. Margaret Gedde of the Clinicians’ Institute for Cannabis Medicine explained to NBC News that “the cannabinoids in pot are very similar to substances our own brains naturally make, called endocannabinoids. These substances serve to quiet excessive activity, whether it’s in the immune system, in the gut or in the nervous system.” There is also research from Israel that proves that cannabis has neuro-protective qualities. Researchers have found that extremely low doses of THC protect the brain from long-term cognitive damage in the wake of injury, like from seizures. Prof. Yosef Sarne in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Tel Aviv University says that [cannabis] … has neuro-protective qualities. He has found that extremely low doses of THC — the psychoactive component of marijuana — protect the brain from long-term cognitive damage in the wake of injury from hypoxia (lack of oxygen), seizures, or toxic drugs.