Cannabizness: Maryland bill would make pot subject to vehicular open-container law

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 30, 2019

That cannabis and cars don’t mix well is a foregone conclusion, but how best to penalize those caught using pot in vehicles is open for debate. In Maryland, one possible scenario – adding pot use to the state’s ¬†existing law governing open booze containers in a motor vehicle’s passenger area – is back in play during the General Assembly’s 2019 session, having last year languished in the House Judiciary Committee and, in 2017, having passed the House and died in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

The lead sponsor this year, as it was last session, is Prince George’s County state Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-District 23A), and signing on as co-sponsors are Baltimore City state Del. Curt Anderson (D-43rd District), Howard County state Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-13th District), and Calvert and Prince George’s’ counties state Del. Michael Jackson (D-District 27B). House Bill 350 (HB 350), “Vehicle Laws – Smoking Marijuana in Vehicles – Prohibition,” currently awaits being scheduled for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, where no further action was taken last year after a hearing was held.

If HB 350 passes into law, someone who is caught using cannibis in the passenger area of a vehicle that is on a highway, whether it is moving or not, can be found guilty of a misdemeanor crime and be subject to a fine of up to $500, according to the fiscal note prepared for last year’s bill by the Department of Legislative Services. However, if that person chooses not to appear in court for a hearing over the violation, he or she can prepay a $530 fine. Either way, a point is added to a violator’s driving record, or three points if the violation is tied to an accident.

Cannabizness: Analyst explains Maryland bill to allow opioid sufferers access to legal weed

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 24, 2019

Maryland’s opioid-related death rate is more than twice the national average, a morbid background to a bill before the Maryland General Assembly this session, House Bill 33 (HB 33), that would allow those suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) to qualify for the state’s medical-marijuana program.

Much of Department of Legislative Services policy analyst Kathleen Kennedy’s just-published note on HB 33 is dedicated to explaining Maryland’s opioid epidemic, and policy responses to it, while summarizing the recent report by Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission (MCC) that cast a seemingly skeptical eye on the proposal.

Last year, the House Health and Government Operations Committee (which has scheduled a hearing on HB 33 at 2pm on Jan. 29) voted down the measure, while the Senate version languished after a Finance Committee hearing. This year, now that Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York have blazed the trail for allowing legal weed to help treat OUD, the bill’s sponsor, Baltimore City state Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-45th District), is trying again.

While our mid-Atlantic neighbors to the north are giving pot-for-OUD a try-out, three other states – Hawaii, Maine, and New Mexico – passed legislation only to see it vetoed by their governors “following significant pressure from health care providers, health care organizations, and addiction specialists,” Kennedy writes. Her note also points out that the federal cannabis ban is frustrating “a significant need for high-quality clinical research” on the use of legal weed to treat OUD – a point that is made in many corners on this issue.

(For those interested in reading an apologist’s first-hand account of how weed helps in opiate recovery, try this, by Elizabeth Brico in The Fix.)

Questions about how medical cannibis fits into society’s addiction-management rubric are likely to continue. What’s on the horizon? Hop Chronic, a THC-laced non-alcoholic beer produced by Flying Dog Brewery and Green Leaf Medical, both based in Frederick, Md., is set to be released this year, assuming the laws and regulations are in place to allow it, and “Will it help or hurt if you’re a teetotaler?” is a question sure to prompt lively discussions.