The first week of the Maryland General Assembly went through a few regular routines with freshmen lawmakers settling into new routines, crafting legislation, organizing various committees and 72 women legislators making it the largest group ever to serve.
But one of the most-discussed moments so far has been Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. announcing in the Senate chamber he’s been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Miller, 76, the nation’s longest-serving Senate president of more than three decades, missed Friday’s session to under chemotherapy treatment.
“Anybody that has been serving that long, it is a big deal. He is a brand,” said Sen. Obie Patterson (D-District 26) of Fort Washington. “He has indicated he sees no reason why he can’t carry out his duties and responsibilities over the years. I’m praying for him and wish him the best.”
Senate Pro Tem Kathy Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County) will handle the duties inside the chamber. Friday’s session to introduce bills lasted fewer than 10 minutes.
But Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery County) noticed a historical moment: “For the first time in history, a woman is presiding in both the House and the Senate.”
Everyone in the chamber applauded as Delegate Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) led the House chamber as House Speaker Michael Busch attended a doctor appointment.
Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore City) introduced three bills regarding the medical cannabis on Jan. 9, the first day of the 90-day session.
The three pieces of legislation call for allowing dispensaries and processors to possess, transport and sell food containing medical cannabis; permitting nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, physical therapists, psychologists and physician assistants to serve on the 13-member Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission; and encouraging the commission to help patients who suffer from an opioid disorder.
Gonzales Research & Media Services of Arnold, Maryland, released a poll on the same day the General Assembly reconvened, showing that 58 percent of registered voters approve of making recreational marijuana legal in Maryland. Approximately 69 percent of those voters who are 55 and younger favor the move, compared to 48 of voters older than 55.
Glenn, whose late mother is the namesake of the cannabis commission, doesn’t support enacting recreational marijuana legislation.
For instance, the commission continues to revamp its application process to ensure more women and minority-owned businesses. This measure was formulated after Gov. Larry Hogan ordered a disparity study released last year which showed mostly white-owned businesses represented the cannabis industry.
According to the commission on the first day of sales on Dec. 1, 2017, through July 30, dispensary sales reached $46 million.
The Baltimore Sun reported last month that the state’s medical marijuana industry received $96.3 million in its first year of operation from nearly 52,000 patients who purchased about 730,000 individual products.
In addition, Glenn said the law needs to be restructured for those who have been previously charged with marijuana-related crimes to partake in the medical cannabis industry, particularly Blacks.
“We have to make sure that our medical marijuana program is what it needs to be,” she said. “We’re still working on that in terms of the diversity factor. Until we get that solidified … it wouldn’t be good to enact recreational marijuana legislation.”
Other legislation will focus on criminal justice reform.
Delegate Alonzo Washington (D-District 22), who represents Prince George’s County, said lawmakers will discuss how to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline.
As a member of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission, Washington said the group approved a recommendation to implement restorative practices as a policy objective.
“We’re making sure our teachers are trained on restorative practices,” he said. “We are making sure we pass some good legislation this year on this.”