ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Senate on Monday overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana legislation that helps reform the state’s Medical Cannabis Commission and ensure diversity for proprietors in the industry.
The 40-5 vote came on the last day of the year’s General Assembly session, allowing Gov. Larry Hogan to sign the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission Reform Act into law.
The Senate and House lawmakers reached a deal Saturday to limit the number of processors to 28, previously set to 15.
The bill plans to add up to 22 licenses to grow marijuana, as well as allow any former Assembly member who leaves office after a year or more to become an owner of or have an official relationship with a medical marijuana business. The previous language set the mark for a person to wait at two years.
Delegate Diana Fennel (D-District 47A) of Colmar Manor, whose stepfather died two years ago and believed medical cannabis would’ve helped him live longer, shed a tear after receiving word the Senate passed the legislation.
“I’m very proud of Delegate Cheryl Glenn,” Fennell said of the Baltimore City lawmaker, who spearheaded the legislation that she named after her late mother. “I do understand and feel the pain of her trying to get this measure done. This is great for the state of Maryland. I’m just happy this has come to fruition.”
The medical marijuana law passed in 2014, but the state’s commission didn’t consider race during the approval process unless disparities became evident.
The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus made getting approval for the legislation, which was voted down last year, one of its top priorities for this year’s session.
Hogan ordered the report after Black lawmakers voiced concern that none of the current 14 companies licensed to grow cannabis had a Black owner.
A report released in January found that widespread disparities in business opportunities for minorities in Maryland are also evident in the medical cannabis industry.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Hogan said he hasn’t read the bill and has 30 days to review it and sign it into law.
Hogan praised the bipartisanship on several pieces of legislation he presented, including one on school safety, a hot-button topic in the wake of the massacre at a Florida high school in February and last month’s fatal shooting at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County.
“It’s probably our most successful session out of all four years,” Hogan said before the Senate reconvened for a second time Monday. “In fact, I don’t know of any session that I can remember in lifetime that a governor got this much done with a legislator that happen to be a different party.”
In other business affecting Prince George’s County, the Senate plans to review whether to permit a speed camera at Route 210 and Old Fort Road in Fort Washington.
About 58 people died in crashes between 2007 and 2017 along Route 210, also called Indian Head Highway, which police and state highway officials have called “one of the deadliest highways in Maryland.”
A camera would be posted for drivers headed south toward Charles County. Old Fort Road intersects with Route 210 at two different locations about three miles apart, so it’s unclear which intersection would have the camera.
While the Senate plans to review that and other legislation on the last day of the session, leaders of the SEIU Local 500 will organize a rally Monday afternoon outside the State House at Lawyers Mall to protest Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who the union accuses in a Facebook post of “obstruct[ing] legislation that would benefit the hardest-working and suffering Marylanders.”