A Review of all the Cannabis legislation introduced in the Maryland State Legislature

 Bill#Cross File#TitleDescriptionSenate Hearing and VotingHouse Hearing and VotingSenate Lead Sponsor(s)House Lead Sponsor(s)
1HB0217SB0900Income Tax – Subtraction Modification – Expenses of Medical Cannabis Grower, Processor, Dispensary, or Independent Testing LaboratoryThis bill allows what is known as a “subtraction modification” for MD income taxes for any expenses incurred during the year as a medical cannabis grower, processor, dispensary, or testing laboratory.In the Senate – Hearing 3/09 at 1:00 p.m., Budget and TaxationWays and Means 1/21/2021 – 1:30 PM
Health and Government Operations
Senator PetersDelegate Wilkins
2HB0032N/ACannabis – Legalization and Regulation (Inclusion, Restoration, and Rehabilitation Act of 2021)This bill established age limits and defines civil offenses for cannabis.  It also has parts that include civil offenses for unlawful cultivation, licensing requirements for cannabis establishments. It also outlines the ATF’s responsibility for licensing cannabis establishments.N/AIn the House – Hearing 2/16 at 1:30 p.m. (Judiciary)
Health and Government Operations
N/ADelegate Lewis, J.
3HB0453N/AHealth – Medical Cannabis Reauthorization ActThis bill repeals the limit on the number of licenses the MD Cannabis Commission may give to growers and processors. It also stops the Commission from rescinding preapprovals and repeals the requirement to decrease licenses in favor of conducting studies for the future number of licenses.N/AIn the House – hearing 2/16 at 1:30pm, Health and Government OperationsN/ADelegate Barnes, D.
4HB0581SB0486Labor and Employment – Employment Standards During an Emergency (Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act)This bill involves essential employees and their rights. It requires essential employers to notify their employees about hazard pay, take safety actions while in emergency situations, and have a non-retaliation policy against those essential workers. It also allows the employee to refuse work in certain situations.In the Senate – Hearing 2/11 at 1:00 p.m.2/05/2021 – 11:00 AM
Appropriations Economic Matters
Sen AugustineDelegate Davis, D.E.
5HB0706N/AMedical Cannabis – Dispensary Grower–Processor LicenseThis bill requires the MD Cannabis Commission to license growers and processers to be able to function if certain requirements are met. The growers and processors must provide and application, must not have any negative disciplinary actions by the committee, and must meet all deadlines. This bill also requires the Commission to establish an application review process.N/AIn the House – Hearing 2/16 at 1:30 p.m., Health and Government OperationsN/ADelegate Ivey
6HB0324SB0143Criminal Law – Marijuana – Possession and Possession With Intent to DistributeThis bill increases the amount of cannabis that defines criminal vs. civil offenses from 10 grams to one ounce.  It also denotes that a person in possession of less than an ounce is not in violation of certain cannabis legislative provisions.In the Senate – Hearing 1/20 at 11:00 a.m. Judicial ProceedingsIn the Senate – First Reading, Judicial Proceedings In the House JudiciarySens Waldstreicher and CarterDelegate Moon
7HB0415N/AFirearms – Right to Purchase, Own, Possess, and Carry – Medical CannabisThis bill guarantees the right of a medical cannabis user to purchase, own, possess, or carry a gun. It also states that medical cannabis is legal and the State should not penalize a user because medical cannabis is legal.N/AIn the house – Hearing 3/10 at 1:30pm, JudiciaryN/ADelegate Grammer
8HB0488N/ACriminal Law – Use or Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance – De Minimis QuantityThis bill makes certain violations of certain quantities of controlled substances a civil offense rather than a criminal misdemeanor. It changes the penalties for possession of less than 1- grams from “marijuana” to use or possession of a “de minimis quantity” of specific controlled substances.N/AIn the House – Hearing 2/02 at 1:30 p.m., Judiciary Delegate Moon
9HB0543SB0190Firearms – Right to Purchase, Possess, and Carry – Use of Medical CannabisThis bill states that a person cannot be denied their right to purchase, carry, and possess a gun/firearm because they are a medical cannabis user.In the Senate – Favorable Report by Judicial ProceedingsIn the House – Hearing 3/10 at 1:30 p.m. JudiciarySenator HoughDelegate Hornberger
10HB0683SB0461Workers’ Compensation – Medical Cannabis – Compensation and BenefitsThis bill states that a person can be denied workers’ compensation and benefits if they use medical cannabis without the written certification of a certifying provider or physician.In the Senate – Hearing 2/18 at 1:00 p.m., FinanceIn the House – Hearing 2/09 at 1:30 p.m., Economic Matters, Health and Government OperationsSenator FeldmanDelegate Valderrama
11HB0925N/AWorkgroup on Medical Cannabis Use by Pregnant and Nursing WomenThis bill establishes a Workgroup on Medical Cannabis use by Pregnant and Nursing Women including its composition, chairman, and staffing. The members of the Workgroup are restricted from taking certain compensation but are reimbursed for expenses. It also requires the Workgroup to report its findings to the Governor and General Assembly no later than December 31, 2020.N/AIn the House – Hearing 3/09 at 1:30 p.m., Health and Government OperationsN/ADelegate Arikan
12SB0504N/ADiscrimination in Employment – Use of Medical Cannabis – ProhibitionThis bill provides protection for employees who use medical cannabis. It prohibits an employer from discriminating against a user for a written recommendation for medical cannabis or a positive drug test.  The employer can make policies that prohibit an employee from doing certain duties while under the influence of cannabis.Senate – Hearing 2/09 at 1:00 p.m., Judicial ProceedingsN/ASenator SmithN/A
13SB0708N/ACannabis – Legalization and RegulationThis bill replaces the word “marijuana” with “cannabis” in legislative language. It also changes the amount and age limit for civil offenses involving cannabis. It establishes funds for social equity including the Social Equity Start-Up Fund, the Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund, the Cannabis Regulation Fund, and the Cannabis Education and Training Fund.In the Senate – Hearing 3/04 at 1:00 p.m., Finance, Budget and TaxationN/ASenators Feldman, Ferguson, Guzzone, King, Smith, Waldstreicher, and WashingtonN/A
14SB0884N/AMedical Cannabis – Visiting Qualifying PatientsThis bill prohibits a visiting qualifying medical cannabis patient from being required to have written certification or a medical ID card. This would allow a visiting cannabis patient access to a Cannabis Commission licensed dispensary or agent.In the Senate – Hearing 3/11 at 1:00 p.m., FinanceN/ASenator KlausmeierN/A

What can the cannabis industry do to foster social equity?

Entry into the cannabis market is difficult, especially for the part of the population that has been disproportionally affected by the war on drugs.  While approximately 60% of the US population is white, 81% of the cannabis industry is owned by white people.  Only 4.3% of African Americans, 5.7% have ownership Hispanic, and 2.4% Asian have ownership interests in cannabis companies.1 This is quite a discrepancy between the white population and minorities. There are many reasons for this discrepancy, including such things as starting capital requirements, license applications and fees, as well as general economic disadvantages. Because of this, new cannabis programs need to address the social inequity that seems to plague the cannabis industry.  Two ways of doing this includes offering small plot growing licenses and boutique processor/manufacturing licenses, as well as adding considerations for disadvantaged economic area in the application process.

The first way to ensure economic equity in the licensing process is to offer different sizes of cannabis businesses. For instance, instead of a major growing operation that states require starting capital around $1M, the state can offer small plot licenses with much less capital requirements. These plots can be limited to 25 acres, ensuring that economically disadvantage people can raise enough capital.  Instead of having millions of capital required, small plots can require a much smaller startup cost – more around $50,000 – $100,000. As well, states can offer “boutique” licenses for processers. In this same line of thinking as small agricultural plots, boutique processors can start small, filling a unique niche for customers. Again, a small processor would not need nearly as much capital.  The state, though, would still need a license cap for businesses, as too many can flood the market and cause supply and demand issues.

The next way to help achieve social equity in the licensing process is to offer extra consideration to economically disadvantaged areas. For instance, during the application process, an applicant can gain points for living or working in prior specified disadvantaged locations.  These points would be added to a total score to compete against other applicants. The state should avoid an affirmative action type of applications process, as these can easily be deemed unconstitutional for failing to provide equal consideration under the law.1 A points based system would allow for social equity to be more easily integrated into the process.  Points can also be awarded for planning to locate a cannabis business in an economically disadvantaged area. Other considerations to advance social equity in the cannabis industry can include expedited application process for minorities, application fee waivers, and application grants.

References:

  1. Swinburne, M, Hoke, K. State Efforts to Create an Inclusive Marijuana Industry in the Shadow of the Unjust War on Drugs. Journal of Business & Technology Law. 2020;15(2):235-280.

What issues face medical cannabis in schools?

The ability to use medical cannabis at school is imperative for those students who face disabilities that can be mitigated by it. One of the critical issues that face the legalization of cannabis use in schools is the necessity of secure storage. Allowing cannabis to be administered at school is important not only to the student who needs the medication, but also to parents and caregivers, as having to administer cannabis offsite is time consuming and illogical.  Children who need cannabis products for their health issues must have it available when needed.  As well, allowing cannabis to be administered at school corroborates its effectiveness and place as a serious pharmaceutical.1

A new bill would have to include who may administer cannabis products at school. Although determining a caregiver is important, it is also important to include whether or not cannabis storage onsite will be allowed.  Allowing cannabis storage onsite at school would be beneficial, as a student would have access to their medication when needed. Unfortunately, schools that have “Drug Free” zones are threatened by the Schedule 1 designation of cannabis and the possibility of losing federal funding.  Most likely, this would not happen because of Department of Justice priorities.  Having a suitable secure storage space for medical cannabis can allay some fears that parents, teachers, administration, and the government have about having it on school grounds.

For instance, cannabis products, including CBD, would have to be stored in a secure container out of normal sight of children and the public.  This container must have at least a 4-digit secured lock and provide adequate security as not to be carried away.  Access should be restricted to the caregiver (possibly a school nurse), the principal/vice principle, and one other higher-ranking administration official. This would preclude wide access to the cannabis products from children, staff, and other adults. With standardized storage regulations, lawmakers can be more confident that medical cannabis will be used appropriately on school grounds.

References:

  1. Lekh, K. Testimony in Support (with Amendments) of House Bill 617 (2020), Public Health Law Clinic-University of Maryland Cary School of Law. 

What critical regulatory issues face a state’s new medical cannabis program?

There are many issues that exist when a state considers legalizing medical cannabis.  The regulatory challenges are immense, and the state government must start from the ground up for the unique cannabis industry.  Three major regulatory challenges that lawmakers face include: 1) defining which medical conditions qualify a patient for medical cannabis, 2) what quantity of cannabis products can patient have in their home, and 3) whether there is state reciprocity.

The first issue, defining what medical conditions qualify a patient for cannabis, provides the basis of the entire medical cannabis program. Because there are already 36 states with medical cannabis programs, A state can look at those qualifying conditions that have already been established as standard.1  Most states include such conditions epilepsy, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) to qualify for a medical cannabis card.  There are, however, states that have significantly limited the qualifying conditions, such as North Carolina, where the only qualifying condition is intractable epilepsy.1 The legislatures of states must decide whether to be more liberal with their condition list or provide severer restrictions.

The next issue is the quantity of cannabis products that a patient may keep in their private residence.  The states with medical cannabis programs tend to have different quantities of cannabis flower that patients can buy and keep over a certain amount of time.  For instance, in Hawaii, a dispensary can sell no more than 4 ounces to a patient or caregiver over a 15 day period.2 On the other hand, in California, a retailer can sell up to 8 ounces to a patient with exceptions for more based on a recommendation from a doctor.2 The state must not only decide how much flower a patient can have, but also if it will allow the purchase and use of concentrates to their medical patients. Quantities of cannabis flower and concentrates that are allowed are vital to the program because it defines how much a patient can have to manage symptoms.

The third issue is state reciprocity.  This means that a patient who is a member of one state’s medical program can purchase cannabis products in another state under its own medical program.  For instance, Delaware has reciprocity.  A patient from Colorado with a medical cannabis card can obtain medical cannabis in Delaware, as long as they meet one of the qualifying conditions outlined in Delaware’s medical cannabis program.1  Patients are not allowed to cross state lines with medical cannabis, but reciprocity laws help patients obtain the necessary relief provided by cannabis even when they are traveling. For example, it is illegal to drive from Maryland to Delaware with medical cannabis, but if a Maryland patient was to visit Delaware, they could still obtain the cannabis they needed.  Nebraska should consider their own medical cannabis population as well as surrounding states reciprocity laws when deciding whether to honor other states’ medical cannabis cards.

References:

  1. State Medical Marijuana Laws. National Conference of State Legislatures. https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx. Accessed on February 4, 2020.
  2. Purchase Limits for Medical and Recreational Cannabis by State. Blaze. https://support.blaze.me/hc/en-us/articles/360047501473-Retail-Purchase-Limits-for-Medical-and-Recreational-Cannabis-by-State. Accessed on February 4, 2020.

Should Cannabis be de-scheduled or re-scheduled?

Cannabis should be removed completely from Schedules I-IV status of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). It could remain on Schedule V but removing it completely would make better sense in the long run.  The standards for the different Schedules of the CSA no longer apply to cannabis or its derivatives. Schedule I denotes that cannabis is a drug with no medical use and a high chance of addiction and/or abuse.1 There are numerous clinical and non-clinical studies since the CSA was established in 1970 that show clearly the medicinal value of cannabis. While cannabis use disorder does exist, there is little chance of overdosing or death with cannabis use. Therefore, it could be considered for Schedule V – as it does have some abuse potential.

The biggest issue to avoid is to reschedule cannabis into Schedule II. Not only does the schedule of cannabis need to change, but it must be downgraded to Schedule V or removed completely to avoid the administrative nightmare of bringing all current cannabis industry members allowed by states, such as growers, processors, dispensaries, into compliance with federal registration requirements (which are due in part to the US’s participation in international drug control treaties). As of now, only one grower/processor needs to register – the University of Mississippi and NIDA which is the sole source for federal research cannabis. If cannabis is moved to Schedule II, that means every single person and entity in the cannabis industry throughout all the states that have already legalized medical cannabis will have to be registered at the federal level.

While both Congress and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have the ability to reschedule or de-schedule cannabis, I believe that Congress should do so in order to have the input from all the states via their senators and representatives. While the DEA specialized in drug enforcement, Congress has the unique ability to bring together many different states’ opinions and viewpoints. The rescheduling of cannabis should be done at the highest level of law making to ensure that the legislation encompasses all states rights.  Congress should be able to make the best decision based on the collective experience of states and their own medical cannabis programs.

References:

  1. The Controlled Substances Act. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. 1970.