CannaBuzz: Maryland Senate to air a big chunk of med-pot agenda today

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 26, 2019

The press has dubbed today “medical marijuana day” in Maryland, due to the high number of bills receiving hearings before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee starting at 1pm in Annapolis. The committee’s chair, Baltimore County Democrat Bobby Zirkin (11th District), has been instrumental in the creation of the state’s still-young medical cannabis industry, which is in the midst of a growth spurt that’s anticipated to reach $440 million by 2024. Not surprisingly, as FSC has reported, Zirkin’s political campaign committee trails only those of House Speaker Mike Bush (D), Gov. Larry Hogan (R), Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D) in the amount of money contributed by med-pot businesses.

FSC previously covered several of the bill’s that will be considered today:

Three Western Maryland Republicans  – state Sen. Andrew Serafini (District 2) and state Dels. William Wivell (District 2A) and Mike McKay (District 1C) – want to assure that possession of weed, medical or not, stays illegal in correctional settings, including for offenders still on probation.

Zirkin and Republican state Sen. Michael Hough (District 4, Frederick and Carroll counties) would like to see gun owners in the state’s medical-cannabis program be protected from being deprived of their firearms rights.

Harford County Republican state Sen. Robert Cassilly (District 34) joins four House Democrats – Prince George’s County state Dels. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (District 23A), Baltimore City state Del. Curt Anderson (District 43), Howard County state Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (District 13), and Calvert and Prince George’s counties state Del. Michael Jackson (District 27B) – in seeking to make punishment for being caught smoking cannabis in a vehicle on the highway the same as it is for an open container of alcohol.

Baltimore County Republican state Sen. Chris West (District 42) wants to allow investors to back as many as six medical-cannabis licenses – up from what was previously understood to be one, until pot investors’ lawyers muddied up the water on this point of law once the cat was already out of the bag.

An ethics bill that would put 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 enjoys potent support.

A tax-and-regulate bill for fully legalized cannabis is being considered, sponsored entirely by Democrats, though the route to legalization – via straight-up legislative passage, or a bill that would put the matter to voters – has been tabled to a study group that will look at the question and report back in December.

The House version of Zirkin’s bill to allow med-pot dispensaries to serve THC- and CBD-laced food to certified patients and caregivers, sponsored by Baltimore City state Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-District 45), has had its committee hearing cancelled, so it looks like the Senate version is the one carrying the ball this session.

Zirkin’s bill seeking to give opioid sufferers access to legal weed, which Glenn has introduced in the House, is part of a larger effort to fit medical cannabis into society’s addiction-management rubric.

FSC has yet to delve into the remaining 11 bills being heard today, but, in time, they too will get the attention they deserve. With luck, FSC will be able to attend some of today’s hearings and report back later.

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: Del. Glenn’s bills to expand Maryland’s medical-cannibis program scheduled for hearing

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 23, 2019

Medical cannabis available in food and drink and for treating opioid addiction, with a larger group of licensed professionals allowed to certify patients – these expansions of Maryland’s legal-pot industry are envisioned by three bills now set for hearings before the Maryland General Assembly. Introduced before the start of this year’s session by one of the state’s pro-cannibis legislators, Baltimore City state Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-45th District), yesterday all three were set for hearings at 2pm on Jan. 29 before the House Health and Government Operations Committee in Annapolis

As previously reported by FSC, House Bill 17 would allow dispensaries to sell cannibis-laced food and drink to qualifying patients or caregivers under Maryland’s Medical Cannibis Commission (MCC). Physical therapists, psychologists, and physicians assistants would join the list of licensed professions represented on the MCC under House Bill 18, which also would allow members of those professions to certify MCC patients. Under House Bill 33, the MCC would be encouraged to approve patients with opioid use disorder for medical-cannibis certification – a proposal that may meet resistance, given the MCC’s official report, summarized recently by the Sun‘s Doug Donovan, which found only anecdotal evidence that cannibis helps opioid addicts.

Cannapress: Doug Donovan is killing it

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 13, 2019

If you’re interested in Maryland’s medical-cannabis scene, stay up with the Baltimore Suns Doug Donovan. This week alone, he notched two insightful pieces that can serve as a roadmap of the industry and its issues. First up, on Jan. 9, was an unveiling of what’s likely to be a hot legislative issue in Annapolis this year: whether management agreements that increasingly are allowing med-pot businesses get around rules intended to keep national or out-of-state chains from dominating Maryland’s industry should be reined in. Then, on Jan. 10, Donovan explored the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission‘s new report concluding that, while some anecdotal evidence exists that cannabis can help opioid addicts as they try to kick their habits, scientific evidence is lacking – and some studies show that it can exacerbate dependency issues. (Baltimore City state Del. Cheryl Glenn has, as FSC reported this week, introduced a bill this session in the Maryland General Assembly to add opioid abuse disorder to the list of conditions that can qualify patients for medical-cannibis certification.) Cheers to Donovan for his good work.


Cannabizness: In Annapolis, Five Cannibis Bills So Far this Session

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 11, 2019

Five cannabis-related bills are in play in Annapolis as the Maryland General Assembly’s legislative session gets underway this week. Three seek to expand the medical-pot industry that has sprung up under the aegis of the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannibis Commission (the MCC), one wants to give the industry some tax write-offs, and one would prohibit legal-weed products from correctional settings, including home detention.

Moving fast, compared to the other five, is Senate Bill 9, the tax-change bill whose chief sponsor is Frederick County state Sen. Ron Young (D-3rd District), who pre-filed it last summer. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee has scheduled a hearing for it at 10:30am on Jan. 17. Should it pass, according to the bill text, cannabis growers, processors, dispensaries and testing labs in Maryland would be allowed to write off ordinary business expenses, including reasonable salaries or other compensation, when calculating their Maryland adjusted gross income.

Three bills pre-filed last November by Balitmore City state Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-45th District), one of Maryland’s staunchest medical-pot advocates, would broaden the MCC’s program in significant ways. House Bill 17 would allow dispensaries to serve food containing medical cannabis to qualifying patients or caregivers. House Bill 18 would allow board-licensed physical therapists, psychologists, and physician assistants to certify MCC patients, and add to the MCC’s membership representatives of those professions. House Bill 33 would add opioid use disorder to the list of medical condtions for which the MCC is encouraged to approve applications for the program. All three of Glenn’s bills await action by the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

Senate Bill 86, sponsored and pre-filed last November by Washington County state Sen. Andrew Serafini (R-2nd District), has been assigned to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. It would allow for criminal prosecution of those possessing medical cannibis at a local correctional facility and of offenders possessing it while on home detention.

If and when these bills move forward, and if and when I learn more about them, I’ll revisit them in more detail. Now, back to cooking and cleaning …