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.