CannaPress: DOJ has a smart guy – who reads smart cannabis coverage – in charge of studying the cannabis industry’s nettlesome externalities

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 13, 2019

Last fall, Cannabis Wire ran a wake-up-call article by a close-to-the-ground writer with a big-picture sensibility, Melissa Matthewson, that exposed what Oregon’s legal-weed boom had wrought: a lax and overtaxed regulatory system allowing bad actors to saturate the market and poison the environment. Not long after, Oregon U.S. Attorney Billy Williams, who had read the article, became chair of the Justice Department’s Marijuana Working Group, and pronounced, “There is one thing everyone agrees on: a broad need for stronger regulation.”

Today, Cannabis Wire is running a lengthly interview of Williams by its co-founder, Alyson Martin – another birds-eye scribe with her feet firmly on the ground. If you’re involved or interested in – and especially if you’re overseeing – anything to do with legal weed, you’d help yourself by reading it, because these are smart people who are shaping the future.

Here’s a teaser:  “I think other states need to pay attention to those that have been in this experiment now for a few years and haven’t done a good job of regulating it. It’s a battle cry, as it’s been here in Oregon, of tax revenue and job creation. And my challenge to that continues to be: At what cost? What are all these collateral damage issues that are real to this state?”


CannaBuzz: Bipartisan bill would clarify that med-pot jobs don’t make Maryland cops unfit for duty

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 13, 2019

If you want to be a cop in Maryland, or are one, then cannabis-related employment with an enterprise licensed by the state’s Medical Marijuana Commission can’t be a reason to withhold your police certification or recertification should House Bill 1176 become law this General Assembly session.

Such employment “does not constitute involvement in the illegal distribution” of drugs, and thus would not affect police certification, as long as “the individual’s employment was not terminated for illegal or improper conduct,” the bill states, or “the business was not subject to legal action arising from illegal or improper trade practices.”

Sponsored by Allegany County state Del. Jason Buckel (R-District 1B), who currently spearheads a GOP proposal to have all Maryland legislative districts represented by one delegate, and cosponsored Montgomery County state Del. David Moon (D-District 20, Montgomery County), a self-professed “opinionated, progressive Democrat and a civil libertarian,” the bipartisan bill is scheduled for a 1pm hearing on March 5 before the House Judiciary Committee.

CannaBuzz: Grant fund proposed for women and minorities entering Maryland med-pot industry

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 11, 2019

A new state fund would provide grants to women- and minority-owned businesses seeking participation in the state’s fast-growing medical cannabis program, if Baltimore City state Del. Nick Mosby‘s House Bill 1156 (HB 1156) becomes law this General Assembly session.

The Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission (MCC), which licenses cannabis growers, processors, and dispensaries, already has the Medical Cannabis Educational and Business Development Grant Program disbursing grants of up to $45,000 to “reduce barriers to entry into the medical cannabis industry faced by small, minority-, and women-owned businesses,” as stated on the program page.

FSC did not immediately hear back from Mosby today about how his proposal, creating a Medical Cannabis Business Development Fund, would fit in with MCC’s existing grant program, and will update this post with his response.

According to the bill’s text, the new fund would be underwritten by two percent of the cannabis taxes collected by the State of Maryland and would be administered by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, which would disburse no more than 15 percent of the fund annually.

Maryland’s $100 million medical-cannabis industry is growing fast, and analysts envision a $440-million industry by 2024. Efforts to boost entry by women and minorities have been undertaken broadly, especially after this 2017 report by Marijuana Business Daily, and at the national level have spawned organizations such as the Minority Cannabis Business Association.


CannaPress: Jen Wieczner nails the big-biz culture of cannabis investment

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 8, 2019

The inevitability of fully legal cannabis everywhere is a newfound canon, potent enough that Big Business seems to be taking it to heart, reports Jen Wieczner in Fortune.

Her carefully constructed and impeccably researched long-form profile of billionaire Brendan Kennedy, the Canadian who took his cannabis company, Tilray, public last summer, makes this key observation: “U.S. industries, including Big Beer, Big Tobacco, and Big Pharma, have made bets on cannabis companies, observing that consumers are increasingly turning to the drug as an alternative to booze, cigarettes, and painkillers.”

Envisioning the resulting future, captured by Big Everything, is a reminder that home cultivation is the key to resisting the coming cannabis overlords.

Cannabuzz: Ethics bill takes aim at Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 6, 2019

A measure meant to abate potential revolving-door conflicts of interest between Maryland medical-cannabis regulators and licensees is proposed this General Assembly session by Montgomery County state Sen. Susan Lee (D-District 16, Montgomery County). The star-power behind this bipartisan bill suggests it chances of reaching a floor vote with strong committee support are good.

Lee, the Senate’s majority whip, already has a host of cosponsors – seven Democrats and four Republicans – who support putting a full year between the date of leaving an agency post at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission (MCC) and new employment with an MCC-licensed grower, processor, or dispenary.

The bill, Senate Bill 552, is before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, where eight of eleven members – Jill Carter (D-41st District, Baltimore City), Robert Cassilly (R-34th District, Harford County), Michael Hough (R-4th District, Frederick and Carroll counties), Justin Ready (D-5th District, Carroll County), William C. Smith, Jr. (D-20th District, Montgomery County), Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18th District, Montgomery County), Mary Washington (D-43rd District, Baltimore City), and Chris West (R-42nd District, Baltimore County) – are signed on as co-sponsors, along with Senate majority leader Guy Guzzone (D-13th District, Howard County).



Cannabuzz: Six-license limit per investor proposed for Maryland med-pot dispensaries

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 4, 2019

Baltimore County Republican state Sen. Chris West (42nd District) has proposed clarifying the law of Maryland medical-marijuana dispensary licenses to allow investors to hold interests in up to six dispensaries each.

Currently, the legislative intent of the dispensary-licensure regulations is to limit investors to one dispensary  license only, as previously reported by Doug Donovan of the Baltimore Sun, but national firms that have already invested in multiple Maryland dispensaries have argued that restriction applies only during the application process.

West’s proposal would settle the debate in favor of the national chains rather than force divestments from existing dispensary-management agreements that have taken force since the legal loophole was found and exploited.

Cannabizness: Bill to Expand Rolls of Maryland Med-Pot Certifiers, Explained

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 25, 2019

Just out is the Maryland Department of Legislative Services “fiscal and policy note” for this session’s House Bill 18 18 (HB 18) to expand the list of licensed professionals allowed to certify patients for the Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission (MCC) program. In it, policy analyst Kathleen Kennedy – fresh from giving the treatment to HB 17, proposing cannibis for opiate-addiction treatment – explains how the measure would include physical therapists, psychologists, and physician assistants in the MCC’s administration of the state’s legal-weed regime.

Currently, physicians, dentists, podiatrists, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives undergo MCC registration so that they can assess patients’ medical conditions and deem them qualified for medical cannibis, and as of Jan. 9 there were 1,243 of them. HB 18, as Kennedy’s note explains, would add physical therapists, psychologists, and physicians assistants to the rolls, while adding representatives of those professions to the mix of the MCC’s roster.

To become a certifying provider under HB 18, an active, in-good-standing license would be required of physical therapists, psychologists, and physicians assistants, the note continues, and the latter must also have “an active delegation agreement with a physician who is a certifying provider.” While current certifying providers must have a Maryland controlled dangerous substances (CDS) registration, members of the proposed professions would not have to meet this requirement, though, as the note points out, “physician assistants can prescribe CDS under the CDS registration of their delegating physician.”

HB 18 is one of three bills sponsored this session by Baltimore City state Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-45th District), a leader in creating and reforming the MCC, that would expand the scope of Maryland’s medical cannabis program.

Cannabizness: Analyst explains Maryland bill to allow opioid sufferers access to legal weed

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 24, 2019

Maryland’s opioid-related death rate is more than twice the national average, a morbid background to a bill before the Maryland General Assembly this session, House Bill 33 (HB 33), that would allow those suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) to qualify for the state’s medical-marijuana program.

Much of Department of Legislative Services policy analyst Kathleen Kennedy’s just-published note on HB 33 is dedicated to explaining Maryland’s opioid epidemic, and policy responses to it, while summarizing the recent report by Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission (MCC) that cast a seemingly skeptical eye on the proposal.

Last year, the House Health and Government Operations Committee (which has scheduled a hearing on HB 33 at 2pm on Jan. 29) voted down the measure, while the Senate version languished after a Finance Committee hearing. This year, now that Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York have blazed the trail for allowing legal weed to help treat OUD, the bill’s sponsor, Baltimore City state Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-45th District), is trying again.

While our mid-Atlantic neighbors to the north are giving pot-for-OUD a try-out, three other states – Hawaii, Maine, and New Mexico – passed legislation only to see it vetoed by their governors “following significant pressure from health care providers, health care organizations, and addiction specialists,” Kennedy writes. Her note also points out that the federal cannabis ban is frustrating “a significant need for high-quality clinical research” on the use of legal weed to treat OUD – a point that is made in many corners on this issue.

(For those interested in reading an apologist’s first-hand account of how weed helps in opiate recovery, try this, by Elizabeth Brico in The Fix.)

Questions about how medical cannibis fits into society’s addiction-management rubric are likely to continue. What’s on the horizon? Hop Chronic, a THC-laced non-alcoholic beer produced by Flying Dog Brewery and Green Leaf Medical, both based in Frederick, Md., is set to be released this year, assuming the laws and regulations are in place to allow it, and “Will it help or hurt if you’re a teetotaler?” is a question sure to prompt lively discussions.


Cannabizness: Maryland Medical-Pot Businesses’ Political Donations, Amended

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 23, 2109

FSC’s first look at the Maryland cannabis industry’s donations to state political campaigns focused on licensed growers. Adding processors and dispensaries to the mix expands the picture, but only slightly. Since 2015, 19 cannabis businesses licensed by the Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission (MCC) have given a total of $124,850 to 48 Maryland political campaign committees.

The top recipients were House Speaker Mike Bush (D-District 30A, Anne Arundel County) with $13,000; Gov. Larry Hogan (R) with $12,000; Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-27th District, Prince George’s, Charles and Calvert counties) with $10,000; state Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-11th District, Baltimore County) with $9,600; and recently retired state Del. Dan Morhaim (D-11th District, Baltimore County) with $7,975. The top-donating businesses were Holistic Industries ($48,500), ForwardGro ($26,375), Curio ($13,500), SunMed Growers ($12,500), and GTI Maryland ($11,250), the only dispensary licensee to jump so deeply into the political game.

GTI is a national cannabis company operating dispensaries under the RISE chain, and its Maryland entity operates as RISE Silver Spring. GTI Maryland’s biggest beneficiary, with $7,000, was Maryland Alliance for Progress PAC, described by the Washington Post as a “developer-funded super PAC” that, as noted by Seventh State blog, largely has undwritten efforts in support of Laurel mayor Craig Moe. Last year, Moe ran unsuccessfully for the First District seat on the Prince George’s County Council.


Cannabizness: Like other tightly regulated industries, Maryland’s medical-cannabis growers are playing the political money game

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 19, 2019

Since late 2015, nine of Maryland’s 14 licensed medical-cannabis growers have given a total of $106,700 to 40 Maryland political campaigns, according to online records maintained by the Maryland Board of Elections and analyzed by Free State Cannablawg. The industry was borne of legislation, and will live and thrive based on a politically malleable regulatory regime, so growers’ voices are now heard with the clink of antes dropped on lawmakers’ kitties.

The top recipients were House Speaker Mike Bush (D-District 30A, Anne Arundel County) with $13,000; Gov. Larry Hogan (R) with $12,000; recently retired state Del. Dan Morhaim (D-11th District, Baltimore County) with $7,725; and state Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-11th District, Baltimore County) with $7,600. The top-donating growers were Holistic Industries ($48,500), ForwardGro ($26,375), Curio ($13,500), and SunMed Growers ($12,500).

The political investments of Maryland’s cannabis growers appear to be assertively bipartisan, a nod perhaps to the state having a Republican governor and a Democratically controlled legislature. One grower, Kind Therapeutics, gave $2,500 to Change Maryland PAC, which is dedicated to boosting the GOP’s proportion of legislative seats to hamper Democrats’ control. Holistic Industries, meanwhile, tipped the Republican State Central Committee of Maryland’s hat to the tune of $4,000.

The donations FSC analyzed were only those made in the names of the growers’ corporate names of record, as entered in the Board of Elections database. Not included are the likely additional donations made by owners and employees of those businesses. Even this first, broad-brush analysis, though, shows the industry is actively adapting to the political reality of its existence.