After long and difficult negotiations and consultation with advocates, industry stakeholders, and the Attorney General, legislators agreed on a compromise bill, HB 1443, to address the lack of diversity in the Maryland medical cannabis industry without delaying the program. Unfortunately, the clock ran out on the last night of session and the final vote occurred at 12:02 a.m. — just after the end of session.
This is really unfortunate for two reasons. First, because two lawsuits that would have been dismissed if the bill had passed will continue; they could derail the entire program. Second, even though African-Americans have borne the brunt of marijuana prohibition, being almost three times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, no African-American-owned companies received pre-approval to grow or process cannabis. This unfairness is why the legislative Black Caucus championed the bill.
Under Maryland law, the Governor is required to call a special session if a majority of legislators in both chambers of the General Assembly petition him to do so. It appears the speaker of the House of Delegates, Mike Busch, is the primary obstacle to this happening. If you are a Maryland resident, please call the speaker’s office and ask him to do the right thing. A good bill with overwhelming support should not fail just because the clock ran out before the final shot hit the basket.