A week before Maryland state legislators were set to consider whether medical marijuana should be legal in Maryland, television personality Montel Williams came to Annapolis to voice his support.
"[Marijuana] is the only thing that has kept me a contributing member of this society for the last 10 years," he told reporters at a press conference Jan. 24th.
Williams, a Baltimore native, suffers from multiple sclerosis. He says marijuana is the only drug that eases his daily neuropathic pain, noting that traditional painkillers have stopped working. Others suffering from chronic illnesses shouldn't be labeled as criminals for attempting to manage their pain, he added.
The 54-year-old said he is willing to return to Maryland to help administer regulations, if lawmakers legalize the drug for patient use.
"I will help you put together the regulations that you are going to need to put together to stop making the mistakes that other states have made, and help you form a system that patients can get off the battlefield and start living a life like everybody else," Williams said, holding back tears.
"This is about relieving suffering and doing it in a responsible way," Delegate Dan Morhaim, of Baltimore County, a supporter of the bill, told the AFRO.
Morhaim, the General Assembly's only physician, said Williams' situation is common. "There are conditions that for some patients, responsible, careful doses [of the drug] work," he said.
He and several other lawmakers will introduce legislation legalizing medical marijuana next week. The proposal, which has bipartisan support, allows doctors to prescribe the drug to patients suffering from a narrow list of conditions only if the effectiveness of other medicines have been exhausted. The patient may then register with the state and obtain the drug from an authorized grower. A similar measure passed the state Senate last year but stalled in the House of Delegates.
Under current state law, residents found using marijuana for medicinal purposes are still charged with a criminal offense, but may receive a reduced penalty.
"In the war on drugs, let's at least get the sick and dying off the battlefield," Morhaim said.
After leaving Maryland, Williams reportedly stopped in Delaware to urge that state's lawmakers to also legalize the drug, according to media outlets. Medical marijuana is legal in fifteen states and the District of Columbia.
The talk show host and Navy veteran lives in New York and is a "card-carrying member" in two states that allow medical marijuana, according to the Associated Press.