ANNAPOLIS — In a surprising turn of events, legislation to revamp the Maryland medical cannabis commission flamed out at the last minute in the Maryland General Assembly.
Lawmakers did approve major bills such as the state becoming the first in the nation to fund Planned Parenthood if federal dollars are cut, which has been threatened by President Donald Trump. Advocates estimate about 25,000 Marylanders would continue to receive access to reproductive health care.
Other major legislation includes a business with 15 more employees must provide five paid sick leave days; allow the attorney general the power to sue drug companies for price gouging; and not permit colleges to ask prospective students about their criminal history on an application.
During a press conference after the session ended Monday, April 10, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) commended the legislature for their work and for approving several of his initiatives, such as a jobs bill that allow manufacturers to receive tax credits in distressed areas, as well as an ethics law that received bipartisan support.
“It was an incredibly successful session for the people of Maryland,” said Hogan, who planned to sign at least 100 bills Tuesday, April 11. “It was the most bipartisan session we’ve ever seen in Annapolis.”
About 90 minutes before Hogan spoke on the steps inside the State House, tension filled the House of Delegates as delegates attempted to get medical marijuana legislation on the floor for a full vote.
Del. Cheryl Glenn of Baltimore, who sponsored the legislation, walked back and forth toward the House Speaker podium, trying to figure out why the bill still hadn’t reached the floor.
The Senate and House needed to reach a compromise, so Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller worked off Glenn’s bill to allow five more growers and five additional processors in the application process to ensure racial and geographically diversity. In return, Miller sought to include two companies that had sued the commission to receive a license because they received a higher score but still weren’t approved.
Glenn, in an interview about 30 minutes before the House reconvened at 10:40 p.m., blasted the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, named after her late mother, as “incompetent” and “corrupt.”
Her legislation didn’t make it to the House floor for a vote until 11:55 p.m., five minutes before the session ended.
Some Republican lawmakers filibustered to ask questions about the bill. When the clock struck midnight, it became too late and the legislation failed.
Glenn declined to comment after the session and was whisked away by colleagues from her Baltimore City delegation.
Del. Angela Angel (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro helped craft her the legislation as a member of the House’s Health and Government Operations Committee.
For instance, the legislation required the commission to incorporate a disparity study so minority and women-owned businesses would get a fair shot in the application process. In addition, five additional growers and five more processors would’ve been allowed. Also, the 14-member commission would’ve decreased to nine.
“The Republican members of the House winding down the clock was a procedural play and it was frustrating,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that fell to the waist side, but we pick ourselves up and start again.”
Locally, a Prince George’s County bill received near-unanimous approval to gain more control of its liquor control board of commissioners and staff, but with amendments.
A major change from the previous bill submitted does allow the county executive to appoint a person to fill a vacancy on the board instead of the governor, but that individual must be confirmed by the Senate. County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who proposed the legislation, wanted the county council to approval the nomination.
A new director of the county’s liquor control office will be able to hire up to three full-time and a maximum of 24 part-time inspectors.
In neighboring Montgomery County, the county executive appoints commissioners to the five-member board who are later confirmed by County Council.
The local oversight in Prince George’s comes after federal authorities charged two former delegates two county liquor control board officials and two county businessmen in bribery scandals.
“It’s a unique situation right now in Prince George’s County,” said Del. Jay Walker (D-District 26) of Fort Washington. “You can’t make everybody happy. Some people think we gave too much power to the county executive. Others say the county council didn’t get enough. Overall, we are the willing body of the people of Maryland and elected to [serve] for Prince George’s County.”
Missed the Cut
Although lawmakers applauded how smoothly the session went, not all proposed legislation was approved.
Some sought legislation to challenge Trump’s push on immigration, but that was scrapped by the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee. Instead, it used a small piece of the bill to codify a federal law to ensure police officers aren’t permitted to stop anyone to question their citizenship status.
The committee unanimously agreed on that provision last week, but minorities in the House wanted more stronger language in the bill that ensured local and state police couldn’t use outside resources to detain immigrants.
Democratic lawmakers and immigration supporters held a news conference Monday outside the State House vowed “to keep fighting” for people in marginalized communities.
Lawmakers also couldn’t agree on domestic violence legislation to change the definition of the abuse to include harassment and malicious destruction of property.
Legislation to revamp the county’s school board received overwhelming approval in the House but didn’t make it out of the Senate.
The plan slated to allow school board members to appoint the vice chair and allow three-fifths of the 14-member board to veto any proposal from the chief executive officer, or the superintendent.
It also requested school and county officials to prepare a report on the system’s academic progress and other improvements by Oct. 1.
The current structure will remain intact, which allows the county executive to appoint both the chair and vice chair, two-thirds of the board, veto a CEO’s proposal and submit a report to the state by Dec. 31.
“I think we need to bring more power to the elected members of the school board,” said Walker, who chairs the Prince George’s County House Delegation.
The Maryland General Assembly will reconvene Jan. 10.