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Marylanders: Please tell Del. Vallario to remove hurdles to a medical marijuana vote

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Generally jaded about politicians, as a person I find longtime Maryland House Judiciary Chair Joseph F. Vallario, Jr., a generally likable person without any apparent ego. He is a quintessential gentleman and politician from southern Maryland who seems truly to enjoy rubbing elbows with folks in the courthouses where he practices, and everywhere else.

Yesterday, I caught up with Joe at the Charles County courthouse, puzzled over why he had a written-on sticky note affixed to his necktie clip. I asked him to follow suit with the previous days’ medical marijuana legislative passage in Washington, D.C. 

Joe replied that he was not about to do that except for when marijuana that gets prescribed by a doctor. I told him that no doctor is going to prescribe marijuana —- versus recommending it -— until the federal government legalizes marijuana for prescription purposes. He still insisted on the feds taking the lead first, and referenced how various opiate-based drugs have been approved for prescription, apparently suggesting that the less harmful marijuana should therefore be able to get approved.

I told Joe that it takes at least $10 million to get FDA approval of a prescription drug these days (I was wrong —- Harvard emeritus medical professor Lester Grinspoon estimates around $200 million in these days of double-blind studies (see here and here) and that nobody is going to want to makes such an investment, marijuana being unpatentable medicine.

Joe asked me if I was satisfied with Maryland’s 2002 compromise law that sets a $100 penalty limit for marijuana possession convictions where medical necessity is proven. I told him that I have won such a defense , but at the substantial price of my client’s angst, and thousands of dollars paid to me, our marijuana cultivation expert, and our medical marijuana expert. And my client still had to be found guilty before achieving a medical marijuana sentence.  

After Maryland’s compromise 2002 medical marijuana law took effect, I bumped into Joe, and asked why Maryland did not just legalize medical marijuana outright. He told me of a concern about conflicting state law with federal marijuana law. Subsequently, and soon after Barack Obama took over the White House, Attorney General Holder declared federal prosecutorial hands off state-sanctioned medical marijuana. Consequently, at worst, Delegate Vallario could support legalizing medical marijuana, and leave to another day what to do if a different presidential administration steps up prosecution of medical marijuana. However, Vallario continues talking about the federal ban on marijuana.

Joe Vallario apparently is an apparently hardworking legislator who is skilled in the ways of parliamentary procedure and in killing bills simply by preventing them from seeing the light of day for a vote. The Marijuana Policy Project asserted earlier this year that previous “efforts to pass medical marijuana legislation in Maryland all failed to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Del. Joseph F. Vallario , Jr.” . Salon.com blogger Barry Considine is more blunt than that, asserting that “Chairman Vallario last time refused to call for a vote in the Judiciary Committee effectively killing the [medical marijuana] bill in 2007.”

Wanting legal medical marijuana in Maryland, I asked Joe when he will retire from the Maryland House. However, who knows if such a void will be filled by someone who will be any better than he/ Although I do not closely follow his voting record, at least he stood up to many colleagues for less draconian mandated ignition interlock driving requirements for those convicted of alcohol-impaired driving.  The Washington Post reported that Vallario allowed the bill to die after a compromise was not achieved.

Now it is time for Marylanders to urge House Judiciary Chair Joe Vallario to enable an early committee and floor vote on medical marijuana at the 2011 legislative session. He is at

House Office Building, Room 101

6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401<(410) 841-3488, (301) 858-3488 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3488 (toll free) e-mail: joseph.vallario@house.state.md.us

fax: (410) 841-3495, (301) 858-3495

His law firm is at:  

5210 Auth Road, Suitland, MD 20746<(301) 423-8100