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: 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.