Cannabizness: Supporters, with No Opposition, Testify at Senate Tax Bill’s Hearing in Annapolis

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 17, 2019

Cannabis businesses, like all other legal enterprises in Maryland, would be able to write off standard business deductions on their taxes if state Sen. Ron Young’s Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) makes it into law. At today’s hearing on the bill before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, the lack of controversy over such a proposal was apparent: no naysayers came to testify, and the supporting testimony prompted no questions from committee members.

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State Sen. Ron Young (D-TK District, Frederick County) after giving testimony today in support of his tax bill to allow cannabis businesses take standard business deductions. (Photo: Van Smith)

Young stressed to the committee that Maryland medical cannabis growers, processors, dispensaries, or independent testing laboratories comprise the “only business in the state that is not allowed to take business deductions,” and the added cost “affects the price of cannabis.”

Young told two stories – one of a family with twins, now nine years old, whose survival of a form of fatal childhood epilepsy is attributed to cannabis; and another about his family dog, who was starting to show signs of age until “we put him on cannibis, and he’s acting much younger now.” – before casting SB 9 as “a matter of fairness” to a “growing business” that is “helping a lot of people” and “employing a lot of people.”

Carissa Cartelemi of Baltimore’s Starbuds dispensary – billed as “the first Starbuds location in Maryland” for the Colorado-based company – told the committee that her business is “really struggling” from not having the tax write-downs like other Maryland businesses, a situation she characterized as “a punishment.” Passing SB 9, Cartelemi added, “helps the thousands of patients who rely on us.”

The two lobbyists who spoke – Ashlie Bagwell for the Maryland Medical Dispensary Association and Joseph Bryce on behalf of the Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannibis Trade Association – stressed that, as Bagwell put it, SB 9 “does not create any kind of special treatment” for cannibis businesses, while Bryce said, “very simply, this is not a special break.”

 

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 …