ANNAPOLIS – Maryland delegate and emergency-room physician Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, is co-sponsoring two bills that would expand access to an unlikely pair of hotly debated products with potential health risks: medical marijuana and raw milk.
Advocates and opponents packed into the Maryland House Health and Government Operations Committee room on Tuesday to discuss those bills and other legislation.
The medicinal cannabis bill would add nurses, dentists and podiatrists to the state’s list of health care providers who can certify qualifying patients for medical marijuana.
The healthcare providers targeted by the bill can already prescribe drugs more dangerous than cannabis, like opioids, for conditions like infected teeth or plantar warts, said Maryland Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Darrell Carrington.
“With our over-reliance on opiates, this is going to be a wonderful alternative for these providers (and) for their patients who struggle with opioid addiction,” Carrington said.
Lawmakers legalized growing and dispensing marijuana for medical purposes in 2014, but Maryland’s marijuana commission has not yet issued licenses to grow, process or distribute the drug.
Raw milk has proven to also be a divisive health issue.
Currently, raw milk is only legal for sale as pet food in Maryland. Without the pasteurization process that eliminates potentially harmful pathogens, the milk has led to health concerns about whether it is fit for human consumption.
But talk to someone in favor of legalizing its sale and they might tell you the drink is nutritious and antimicrobial, and therefore it does not need to be pasteurized.
“I can tell you firsthand, I know thousands of families who get raw milk from out-of-state and there’s not one recorded illness from it,” said Liz Reitzig, a raw milk advocate from Prince George’s County.
Though Morhaim’s bill would not put raw milk on supermarket shelves, it would allow farms to sell the drink directly to anyone who invests money in the cow or herd that produces the milk.
“Because this bill specifically acknowledges the consumer ownership of livestock, this is the perfect way to do it. It requires the consumer to be actively involved and a participant in the raw milk production and the farming methods,” Reitzig said.
The House committee also heard a bill that would allow minors to consent for medical care related to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, including vaccinations and medications for diseases such as HIV, which can cause AIDS.
Some teenagers may be hesitant to discuss sexually transmitted diseases with their parents, and prevention cannot always wait for a minor to broach the subject with an adult, said Dr. Susan Chaitovitz, president of the Maryland chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a Frederick pediatrician.
“As the world of healthcare is shifting to a preventative model, adolescents’ rights to consent are around treatment but not around prevention,” she said. “If you can consent for treatment of chlamydia or HPV, wouldn’t it make logical sense to allow you to consent to the prevention of those same diseases?”