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Maryland: House Fails To Pass Amended Bill Adding Five Medical Marijuana Cultivation Licenses

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A plan to add five medical marijuana cultivation licenses in Maryland was defeated in the House of Delegates after Republican lawmakers delayed the vote right up until midnight, which marked the official end of the legislative session. The measure was pushed by Legislative Black Caucus chairwoman Del. Cheryl Glenn as part of her efforts to create equity in the state’s medical marijuana licensing program.

The bill was passed last week, but was returned to lawmakers for amendments. The revised bill did not receive another vote by the full House, which was required for its survival.

Glenn has called on legislative leaders to hold a special one-day session specifically to consider the measure. “It’s not important to me what the speaker’s reasons or justifications were,” Glenn said in the report. “What is important is to understand where this leaves the black community: It leaves us outside of the medical cannabis industry, and that is absolutely unacceptable.”

The legislation would have put an end to lawsuits against the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission by minority-owned medical cannabis companies who say the commission did not follow the law which requires regulators to “actively seek and achieve” racial and ethnic diversity in the industry.

Maryland: Legislature Overrides Veto Of Bill To Fix Marijuana Decrim Law

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53% of Maryland voters support regulating marijuana like alcohol, according to new Gonzales Research poll

The Maryland House and Senate voted 86-55 and 29-17, respectively, on Thursday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill intended to fix the state’s marijuana decriminalization law.

SB 517, introduced by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), removes criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia. The measure also imposes a new civil fine of up to $500 on public cannabis consumption.

Gov. Hogan vetoed the bill in May 2015, after it was approved 32-13 in the Senate and 83-53 in the House of Delegates.

Maryland adopted a law in 2014 that was intended to decriminalize simple marijuana possession, but it did not include marijuana paraphernalia.

A new poll released on Thursday shows that the majority of Maryland voters support broader cannabis policy reform. A statewide survey of 818 registered voters conducted by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies found 53 percent favor a change in Maryland law to allow marijuana to be regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. Only 43 percent were opposed.

The poll was conducted Jan. 11-16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. The full results are available at www.mpp.org/Md2016poll.

Maryland: Attorney General Says Counties Can't Ban Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

For some odd reason, Republican Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh is on a mission to prevent medical marijuana patients from having safe access to their medicine -- despite the fact that it's now legal in Maryland.

Schuh this week vowed to press forward with an effort to prohibit medical marijuana facilities in the county despite a letter from the Maryland Attorney General's Office stating that counties cannot ban operations allowed by state law, reports Rema Rahman at The Baltimore Sun.

The bill backed by Schuh would prohibit not only dispensaries but even individual patients from growing, processing or dispensing medical marijuana in all zoning classifications.

The advice was issued on Tuesday by the Attorney General's Office in response to a Democratic Baltimore County state senator who slammed Schuh's plan to ban safe access.

The nonbinding legal advice, signed by Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe, says state law allows counties to decide where medical marijuana may be grown, processed and dispensed, but does not permit local jurisdictions to outright ban facilities "unless a situation unique to that county makes one or more types of facilities inappropriate."

Maryland: Governor Vetoes Popular Bill Intended To Fix Marijuana Decrim Law

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Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland calls on state lawmakers to override veto of SB 517, which would remove criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced late Friday afternoon that he has vetoed a widely supported bill to remove criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia, including potential jail time.

SB 517, introduced by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), was approved 32-13 in the Senate and 83-53 in the House of Delegates. The measure would also have designated public marijuana consumption a civil offense punishable by a $500 fine.

Maryland adopted a law last year that decriminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana, but it did not include marijuana paraphernalia. That leaves the state in the unusual position of having decriminalized marijuana itself, but marijuana paraphernalia is still a crime.

Gov. Hogan’s letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller announcing the veto and explaining his reasoning is available at http://bit.ly/1ellF1e.

Maryland: Legislature Votes To Repeal Law Against Marijuana Paraphernalia

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Maryland General Assembly has approved a bill which would repeal the state's law against marijuana paraphernalia.

The House of Delegates on Saturday voted 84-52, sending the bill, already approved by the Senate, to Governor Larry Hogan's desk, reports CBS DC.

Maryland decriminalized possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana last year, making it a civil offense rather than a criminal one.

Lawmakers didn't do the same thing at that time for smoking paraphernalia like pipes and bongs, so the paraphernalia bill was introduced this session of the Assembly.

The same measure also makes smoking marijuana in public a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Photo: DEA Museum

Maryland: House Committee Hearing Set For Tuesday On Bill To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

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House Judiciary Committee to consider bill at 1 p.m. that would make marijuana legal for adults, establish regulations for cultivation and sale

The Maryland House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing in the General Assembly on Tuesday, February 24, to consider a bill that would regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Supporters of the bill, including representatives of the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland, are expected to testify.

The hearing will take place in Room 101 of the House Office Building at 1 p.m. ET.

HB 911, the Marijuana Control and Revenue Act of 2015, sponsored by Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore City), would allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes.

The bill requires the Maryland Comptroller to establish rules and regulations for the operation of cultivation facilities, product manufacturers, retailers, and safety compliance labs. It also creates an oversight commission to monitor marijuana businesses and advise the comptroller on regulatory issues.

WHAT: House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Marijuana Control and Revenue Act of 2015 (HB 911)

WHEN: Tuesday, February 24, 1 p.m. ET

WHERE: Maryland House Office Building, Room 101, 6 Bladen St., Annapolis

WHO: Sara Love, ACLU of Maryland
Eric Blitz, Libertarian Party
Tim Lynch, Cato Institute

Maryland: Bill To Legalize, Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Introduced In Legislature

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Bill would make marijuana legal for adults, establish regulations for cultivation and sale

A bill that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly on Friday. HB 911, the Marijuana Control and Revenue Act of 2015, sponsored by Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore City), would allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes.

The bill requires the Maryland Comptroller to establish rules and regulations for the operation of cultivation facilities, product manufacturers, retailers, and safety compliance labs. It also creates an oversight commission to monitor marijuana businesses and advise the comptroller on regulatory issues.

The fiscal note for similar legislation proposed in 2014 estimated about $95.6 million per year in revenue from the $50/ounce excise taxes and about $39 million in new revenue from sales taxes. State expenditures would be exceeded through the estimated $1.995 to $3.985 million in yearly revenue in licensing fees from wholesalers, retailers, and safety compliance facilities.

A companion bill, SB 531, was introduced by Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) earlier this week.

Marijuana businesses would not be permitted to operate within 1,000 feet of a school, and localities would be able to enforce additional regulations. Using marijuana in public and driving under the influence would remain illegal.

Maryland: Director Appointed For Medical Marijuana Program

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The first executive director of the Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission has been appointed, it was announced on Friday.

Hannah Byron has been named to the position, according to the panel, reports the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Byron was assistant secretary for the Maryland Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts of the Department of Economic and Business Development.

Byron's appointment takes effect on January 14.

“The Commission is thrilled that Hannah Byron, an extraordinarily effective public official, has agreed to be our first full-time executive director,” said Dr. Paul Davies, chair of the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission. “For more than 12 years, she has been a top administrator in the Department of Business and Economic Development. We are excited that she will bring her deep experience with the business community and her commitment to the citizens of Maryland to lead the Commission.”

“We face an urgent challenge to get medical marijuana to patients whose doctors have certified that they need it,” Byron said. “I look forward to working with the medical profession and patients, law enforcement, business and agricultural leaders, the Commissioners and others to implement this law. I am committed to getting this program operational as quickly as possible.”

Maryland: Marijuana Decriminalization Bill To Take Effect Wednesday

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Criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession will be replaced with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket

Legislation adopted this year to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession in Maryland will go into effect on Wednesday, October 1.

Maryland joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia that have decriminalized or legalized marijuana possession. In addition, Missouri passed a similar bill this year, which will make it the 19th state to do so when it goes into effect.

Senate Bill 364 makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program.

“Decriminalization will free up law enforcement officials’ time and allow them to focus on more pressing issues than marijuana possession," said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and a 34-year veteran of the Maryland State Police.

"It will address some inequalities in our justice system, but, until we fully legalize and regulate marijuana, sales will continue to be conducted by criminals in an underground market," Franklin said. "Until that happens, we are not going to see the public safety benefits that are possible in a post-prohibition world.”

Maryland: Panel Works Toward Final Medical Marijuana Rules

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Maryland state panel on Tuesday worked on the final details to create a medical marijuana system from scratch, but a few points remain unresolved as the commission moves toward next week's deadline.

The Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission on Wednesday released a second draft of regulations to create the program, reports Erin Cox at The Baltimore Sun. The 81 pages of rules were reworked after the first draft came under fire at a public hearing last month.

Among the many changes in the second draft was removal of a provision that would have effectively banned medical marijuana growers or dispensaries within Baltimore city limits.

The panel also decided to create a digital registry of medical marijuana patients, in an effort to assure only patients receive cannabis. It also tweaked the rules about how patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can access the herb.

But still missing from the revisions are details about how much patients and distributors will pay to participate in the program.

The Maryland Legislature passed a medical marijuana law earlier this year which allows for up to 15 growers and about 100 dispensaries across the state. It is up to the Medical Marijuana Commission to decide how to implement that law.

Maryland: 2 In 1 Day - 21st State To Allow Medical Marijuana, 18th State To Decriminalize Possession

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Gov. Martin O’Malley signs SB 923/HB 881, which would allow patients with serious illnesses to access medical marijuana; he will also sign SB 364 Monday, making possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense

Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill into law Monday making Maryland the 21st state in the nation to allow medical marijuana. He will also sign a bill Monday making Maryland the 18th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“We applaud Gov. O’Malley for signing these important bills into law,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “The progress we’re seeing in Maryland is emblematic of what is taking place nationwide. Most Marylanders, like most Americans, are fed up with outdated marijuana prohibition policies and ready to start taking a more sensible approach.”

Senate Bill 923 and House Bill 881 are identical bills that allow state residents suffering from certain qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Possession limits and regulations governing cultivation and dispensary facilities will be determined by a state-sanctioned commission prior to implementation. The measure will officially go into effect on June 1.

Maryland: Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Bill, Set To Become 21st MMJ State

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HB 881 will protect patients from arrest and prosecution, approve physicians, license growers and distributors

The Maryland House of Delegates on Monday voted 125-11 to adopt HB 881, a medical marijuana bill that greatly improves upon the unworkable law that was adopted by the state last year. If signed by Governor Martin O'Malley, HB 881 will protect patients with severe pain, nausea, wasting syndrome, seizures, and severe muscle spasms from arrest and prosecution.

Qualified patients will be able to obtain their medicine from licensed medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTC), which will rely on licensed growers for their supply. Patients will be required to get approval from physicians who are approved by the state and must obtain an identification card before they will be eligible to access an MMTC.

"We're excited to welcome Maryland as the 21st medical marijuana state," said Mike Liszewski, policy director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), who testified before House and Senate committees. "This bill is a vast improvement over the current law in Maryland and will provide patients with needed protection from arrest and prosecution, and give them a means to safely and legally obtain medical marijuana."

HB 881 was sponsored by Maryland House Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) and co-sponsored by nearly half of the House. A broad coalition including ASA, industry stakeholders, and Stop the Seizures, a group of parents of children suffering from seizure disorders, worked tirelessly to pass HB 881.

Maryland: Governor Will Sign Bill Removing Criminal Penalties For Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley said on Monday that he will sign a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, report Fredrick Kunkle and John Wagner at The Washington Post.

The Maryland Senate gave final approval Monday afternoon (34-8) to a bill that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana. It will now be sent to Gov. O'Malley.

"As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the public will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety," Gov. O'Malley said in a statement. "I know that that is an acknowledgment of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police and the vast majority of our citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health."

The Maryland House voted 78-55 on Saturday to approve the same measure approved on Monday by the Senate. The bill narrowly survived efforts by House Judiciary Committee Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George's County) and others to kill it in committee, by "appointing a task force to study the issue."

Maryland: House of Delegates Passes Marijuana Decrim Bill; Headed To Governor's Desk

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maryland's House of Delegates on Saturday night passed a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill, already approved by the Maryland Senate, is now headed for Governor Martin O'Malley's desk for his signature or veto.

If the Governor signs the bill, HB 1453, getting busted for 10 grams or less of cannabis won't mean going to jail, reports Alex DeMetrick at WJZ. Under current Maryland law, any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense.

"The key is there will be civil penalties instead of criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana," said Del. Kioeffer Mitchell Jr. (D-Baltimore). Possession of 10 grams or less would result in a citation and a possible fine, but no arrest and no criminal record. Seventeen other states have similar laws.

The House voted 78-55 to impose civil fines, rather than criminal penalties, for less than 10 grams of pot, reports Elizabeth LaForgia at Jurist. Those favoring the move pointed to racial disparities, with African Americans much more likely to both be arrested, and to receive a prison sentence for possession.

Maryland: Delegates Try To Revive Marijuana Decrim Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Several rebellious members of the Maryland House of Delegates tried on Friday to revive a bill which would remove criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana, days after the measure got hung up in a committee, according to lawmakers.

Delegates led by members of the Legislative Black Caucus tried to amend the legislation in the full House, an unusual challenge to committee rule in the tightly scripted Legislature, report Fredrick Kunkle and John Wagner at The Washington Post. The move is also a challenge to one of the most powerful men in the House, Judiciary Committee Chairman Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr (D-Prince George's County).

"There are a number of members in the House who feel very strongly that Maryland should be moving in the direction of decriminalizing marijuana," said Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (D-Prince George's County), chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

Overcoming a committee chairman's opposition "is very difficult," she said. "But it's not impossible, and it has happened before."

The amendment will likely be introduced during Friday's House session, but debate could be pushed until Saturday, according to several lawmakers.

Last year, the Maryland Senate passed a decriminalization bill, but that one also died in Vallario's committee without a vote. This year was looking like a rerun.

Maryland: Senate Approves Effective Medical Marijuana Bill

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Legislation would allow patients with certain serious conditions to use medical marijuana; regulations to be established by existing medical marijuana commission

The Maryland Senate on Thursday approved a bill 45-1 after its third reading that would allow seriously ill Marylanders to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their doctors. The amended bill will now go to the House for consideration, where a similar bill has already been approved.

SB 923, introduced by Sen. Jamie Raskin and co-sponsored by 12 other senators, would allow seriously ill residents suffering from certain qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Possession limits and regulations governing cultivation and dispensary facilities would be determined by the state prior to implementation.

A companion bill, HB 881, was co-sponsored by 80 delegates and approved overwhelmingly by the House earlier this year and is waiting for consideration by the Senate.

Maryland: Law Enforcement, Public Square Off On Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Seldom has there been a clearer divide between the will of the people and the wishes of law enforcement to hold onto their power. With the Maryland Senate taking a final vote on decriminalizing marijuana on Friday, supporters squared off with police officers in a battle of words, with the cops seemingly unwilling to let go of almost 80 years of war on a plant.

Dozens of uniformed law enforcement officers from around the state showed up at the state capital on Thursday to oppose popular efforts by some legislators to loosen Maryland's marijuana laws, reports Megan Brockett of Capital News Service.

The packed committee room became tense at times, as law enforcement officials attempted to fight back against the rising tide of support for changing the cannabis laws. Many officers voiced passionate opposition to any loosening of the pot laws, darkly warning of "unintended consequences" that supposedly might follow. In a quite revealing admission, some officers argued that changing the laws would hinder the ability of cops to conduct searches on the basis of marijuana odor.

Maryland: Senate Committee Approves Bill to Impose a Civil Fine for Marijuana Possession

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The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Friday approved a bill 8-3 with bipartisan support that would replace criminal penalties with a civil fine for possession of limited amounts of marijuana. The measure will now receive a full vote in the Senate, which approved a similar measure last year with bipartisan support.

SB 364, co-sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore) and Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Howard), would replace criminal penalties for possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana with a $100 fine, similar to a parking ticket. It would also make penalties for minors the same as those for underage possession of alcohol. Under current Maryland law, possession of small amounts of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Maryland had the fourth highest arrest rate in the nation for marijuana possession, according to a report released in June by the American Civil Liberties Union. It also found that blacks accounted for 58 percent of marijuana possession arrests and were more than three times more likely to be arrested than whites despite using marijuana at comparable rates.

More than two-thirds of Maryland voters (68 percent) support changing state laws to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100, according to a survey conducted in September by Public Policy Polling. The full results are available at http://www.mpp.org/MDpoll.

Maryland: Senate Panel Takes Up Marijuana Legalization, Decrim

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Despite hostility from Governor Martin O'Malley, Maryland lawmakers are moving forward on bills which would either reduce marijuana penalties, or legalize cannabis entirely.

Dozens of people on Tuesday testified before legislators and called for an end to the state's war on marijuana, which they said has done more harm than good, reports Megan Brockett at Capital News Service.

One bill would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to a ticket and a fine, reports Pat Warren at CBS Baltimore. The other would make pot legal for adults 21 and older, with regulation and taxes.

In a heated debate, proponents of both bills pointed to what they called the negative consequences of marijuana prohibition, including barriers to employment and education created by pot arrests and the racial disparities that often surface in enforcement. In 2010, Maryland had the fourth-highest marijuana arrest rate in the nation, with African-Americans being arrested for possession at higher rates than whites in every county in the state, according to a report released last October by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Maryland: Senator Corrects Police Chief In Hearing On Marijuana Legalization

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Anti-Legalize-and-Regulate Cops Accidentally Highlight Own Ignorance of Drug War Issues

Pro-Legalize-and-Regulate Cops Guardedly Optimistic About Future of Law Enforcement

I wish I could've been there. A clueless police chief was practically laughed out of the Maryland Legislature on Tuesday.

The oppositional side of the hearing on legalization and regulation of marijuana in the Maryland Senate turned into a comedy of errors, courtesy of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and Maryland Sheriffs’ Association. The gallery erupted in laughter and outrage after Annapolis Chief of Police Michael Pristoop cited a hoax story about deaths attributed to marijuana overdose in Colorado. He was publicly corrected by one of the presiding senators, who pulled up the hoax on his phone and explained the story was a joke.

Other questionable statements included Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis’s point that marijuana shouldn’t be legalized because police would have to retrain expensive drug-sniffing police dogs, an officer making light of the dangers of alcohol use, a DA asserting “no one goes to jail for marijuana,” and comments on how absent (constitutionally required) probable cause other than the supposed smell of marijuana, police would be less able to conduct pretextual stops such as stop-and-frisk.

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