Governor Martin O’Malley has approved legislation creating Maryland’s first medical marijuana program, making it the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana.

H.B.1101 (also known as the “Medical Marijuana – Academic Medical Centers – Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission” bill), signed into law on May 2, 2013, establishes a Medical Marijuana Commission that will allow the distribution of medical marijuana to qualified patients by “academic medical research centers”.  Unlike other states which allow for privately held dispensaries, academic medical research centers will be limited to non-profit universities and/or hospitals, though the medical centers are able to hire private growers to supply the drug.

While the bill doesn’t state specifically which medical conditions qualify for medical marijuana use, all academic medical centers will need to report to the Commission specific information about what medical conditions it will treat and how patients will be evaluated for diagnoses.  The medical centers will be required to provide the Commission with daily updated data on its patients and their medical conditions.

The bill specifically forbids smoking in public places, but does not provide any specific protections for employees who are terminated, disciplined, or refused hire because of failing a drug test or using medical marijuana.  It is too early to say how Maryland courts will respond to claims of discrimination due to the use of “medical marijuana.”

Illinois’ legislature also is considering a medical marijuana law, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act.  If passed, the law will create a four year pilot program providing individuals with certain medical conditions – including cancer and multiple sclerosis – access to medical marijuana, pending approval by their doctors and the Illinois Department of Public Health.  Unlike Maryland’s law, the Illinois bill specifically prohibits employers from “penalizing” an individual for “his or her status as a registered qualifying patient.”  However, no cause of action will exist against an employer who terminates or disciplines an employee who, based upon the employer’s good faith belief, used or possessed marijuana on the employer’s premises and/or was impaired while working on the employer’s premises.