ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND — Montel Williams, multiple sclerosis patient and popular former talk show host, will attend a press conference today to urge General Assembly members to support legislation that would make Maryland the 16th state in the nation to allow the medical use of marijuana.
Williams and other patients will be joined by Deputy Majority Leader and physician Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), and Sen. David Brinkley (R-Frederick & Carroll Counties) for a press conference at 4:00 pm, Monday, January 24, in room 302 of the House Office Building.
“I grew up in Maryland, graduated from the Naval Academy, and my family still lives in Baltimore today, so I’m excited about the prospect of helping my home state put in place a policy that’s more compassionate toward our most vulnerable residents,” said Williams, whose father was Baltimore’s first African-American fire chief. Prior to beginning his television career, Williams retired from the U.S. Navy as Lieutenant Commander after more than two decades of service. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a decade ago and has sought treatment at Maryland’s Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The Maryland Senate passed similar legislation last year by an overwhelming margin of 35-12, and this week, Del. Morhaim plans to file a new medical marijuana bill.
“As a physician, I see this as just another tool in the toolbox,” said Morhaim. “This isn’t about ending the war on drugs – it’s about getting the sick and dying off the battlefield.”
Sen. Raskin, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer, noted that Maryland law already provides reduced penalties for marijuana possession to anyone who can show a medical necessity, but that patients have no legal way to obtain it and are still given a criminal conviction even if they are successful in showing a medical need.
“Maryland law already recognizes the medical benefits of marijuana but, bizarrely, sends very sick people into the streets and alleys to find medical relief and then exposes them to criminal arrest and prosecution for seeking relief from pain and nausea,” says Sen. Raskin. “We need to put the doctor-patient relationship at the heart of our policy and we have done that with the most carefully regulated and defined proposal in the country.”
Sen. David Brinkley, a two-time cancer survivor, sponsored the Senate version of last year’s bill and joined with Raskin in leading the bi-partisan effort to pass it.
Says Sen. Brinkley, “This is a bi-partisan bill because compassion is a bi-partisan issue. If it were my loved one suffering from a devastating disease, I would want every treatment option that could relieve their suffering to be on the table. There should be nothing controversial about that.”