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).



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: 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 …