CannaBuzz: Maryland driving-and-toking bill gets vigorous nod from prosecutors

By Van Smith

Baltimore, March 1, 2019

“How could it be that it’s okay to have a bong in your car, and smoking it, but you’re not able to have an open container of alcohol?” Steve Kroll, speaking on behalf of the Maryland State’s Attorney’s Association (MSAA), on Feb. 26 asked of the Maryland senators he hopes will vote to close a driving-with-weed loophole that has become an incongruence in the age of decriminalization.

In the real world, if police observed someone doing bong hits in a car, it’d be a good bet that charges would result. But the prosecutor’s point remains: “Our goal is … safe driving,” Kroll explained to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee (JPC), adding, “this is a driving bill more than it is a marijuana bill.”

It would accomplish that by, in essence, adding cannabis to the existing open-container law that currently pertains only to alcohol, as FSC reported in prior coverage. Someone caught using cannibis in the passenger area of a vehicle, moving or not on a highway, would be subject to a $500 misdemeanor crime and a point on their driving record, or three points should the violation involve an accident, if Senate Bill 418 becomes law.

“All this does is put marijuana on the same footing as Bud Light in terms of having it in your car,” Senator sponsor Robert Cassilly (R-District 34) of Harford County told his colleagues during his testimony.

“It’s important,” Cassilly added, “as marijuana use becomes more prevalent and because we’ve decriminalized the use of marijuana, that we send the appropriate message.” In this case, he continued, the message is directed “to particularly the young drivers: that marijuana is not an appropriate substitute for the Budweiser that you’d like to drink in your car, that you can’t just simply drop off one kind of bud for another.”

JPC vice chair William Smith Jr. (D-District 20, Montgomery County) asked about how the bill would address “edibles,” the broad range of cannabis products that produce no second-hand smoke because they are eaten, not combusted.

“Edibles would not apply to passengers, only to drivers” explained MSAA’s David Daggett, adding that “primarily we’re concerned with the passenger smoking and the driver smoking” because cannabis smoke can affect others in a vehicle’s passenger area.

If opposition to the bill exists, no one rose to voice it during the Feb. 26 hearing. Testimony on its Democrat-sponsored companion bill, House Bill 350, was taken by the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 19.


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.

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: Cannabis-in-cars bill gets bipartisan boost

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 1, 2019

Harford County state Sen. Robert Cassilly (R-34th District) today introduced in the Maryland General Assembly the Senate version of the Democrat-filed House Bill 350 that would add cannabis to the law prohibiting open containers of alcohol in passenger areas of vehicles on highways. Cassilly’s sponsorship of Senate Bill 418, which is assigned to the Judicial Proceedings Committee, makes it a bipartisan proposal. The House version is scheduled for a hearing on Feb. 19 at 1pm before the Judiciary Committee.