CannaBuzz: Bipartisan bill would clarify that med-pot jobs don’t make Maryland cops unfit for duty

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 13, 2019

If you want to be a cop in Maryland, or are one, then cannabis-related employment with an enterprise licensed by the state’s Medical Marijuana Commission can’t be a reason to withhold your police certification or recertification should House Bill 1176 become law this General Assembly session.

Such employment “does not constitute involvement in the illegal distribution” of drugs, and thus would not affect police certification, as long as “the individual’s employment was not terminated for illegal or improper conduct,” the bill states, or “the business was not subject to legal action arising from illegal or improper trade practices.”

Sponsored by Allegany County state Del. Jason Buckel (R-District 1B), who currently spearheads a GOP proposal to have all Maryland legislative districts represented by one delegate, and cosponsored Montgomery County state Del. David Moon (D-District 20, Montgomery County), a self-professed “opinionated, progressive Democrat and a civil libertarian,” the bipartisan bill is scheduled for a 1pm hearing on March 5 before the House Judiciary Committee.

Cannabuzz: Maryland eyes referendum on cannabis legalization

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 7, 2019

House Bill 632, to put to voters the question of whether to amend the Maryland constitution to legalize all cannabis, and House Bill 656, to establish a tax-and-regulate scheme for fully legalized cannabis, were introduced yesterday in the Maryland General Assembly by state delegates David Moon (D-20th District) and Eric Luedtke (D-14th District), both of Montgomery County.

Statewide public-opinion polling in Maryland has been tracking pro-legalization majorities for a while, and the most recent one – Goucher College’s Sept. 2018 “Goucher Poll” – found it to be quite pronounced: 62 percent for, 33 percent against. The political hurdles remaining before a referendum could be held, though, remain high: the legislative process, a gubernatorial signature, and a contest of campaigns for and against.

A pipe dream, some might say – and so far, an effort is driven purely by Democrats. (Here is some historical context for the Maryland GOP’s resistance to legalization.) Thirty sponsors back the referendum bill, all Democrats, comprising more than a fifth of the House of Delegates’ 141 members. The tax-and-regulate bill has nine sponsors, also all Democrats. Its cross-filed Senate version, Senate Bill 771, has only one sponsor: Sen. William C. Smith, Jr. (D-Montgomery County), who yesterday announced he’d been deployed to Afghanistan, leaving in March.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, of which Smith is vice chair, has scheduled a hearing on SB 771 at 12pm on Feb. 26. House hearings have yet to be scheduled for HB 632 and HB 656. Both bills have been assigned to the Judiciary Committee, and HB 656 also has been sent to the Ways and Means Committee.

Cannabuzz: Cannabis-in-cars bill gets bipartisan boost

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 1, 2019

Harford County state Sen. Robert Cassilly (R-34th District) today introduced in the Maryland General Assembly the Senate version of the Democrat-filed House Bill 350 that would add cannabis to the law prohibiting open containers of alcohol in passenger areas of vehicles on highways. Cassilly’s sponsorship of Senate Bill 418, which is assigned to the Judicial Proceedings Committee, makes it a bipartisan proposal. The House version is scheduled for a hearing on Feb. 19 at 1pm before the Judiciary Committee.

Cannabuzz: Cannabis-in-cars bill scheduled for hearing

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 31, 2019

Prince George’s County state Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-District 23A) and three fellow Democrats, with House Bill 350¬†before the Maryland General Assembly, have proposed penalizing those found with cannabis in their motor vehicles on Maryland highways the same as for open containers of alcohol: a $500 misdemeanor crime on their records, or prepayment of a $530 fine without taking the case to court. Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill to a hearing scheduled for Feb. 19 at 1pm.

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.