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Maryland lawmakers consider similarities, differences of two cannabis legalization bills.
Last month, Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee held the first hearing of the session on adult use cannabis legalization. In focus was HB 32, introduced by Delegate Jazz Lewis, which, as Cannabis Wire reported, has broad support among advocates.
Also last month, the vice chair of Maryland’s Senate Finance Committee, Brian Feldman, introduced SB 0708, another adult use cannabis legalization bill. This bill has strong legislative support, including from Senate President Bill Ferguson and Senate Majority Leader Nancy J. King.
That bill got its first hearing on Thursday, in the Senate Finance Committee, which lasted about an hour and a half. In his opening remarks, Feldman pointed to changing cannabis laws across the country, including the “Commonwealth of Virginia, right across the river from my Senate district,” where an adult use bill is “sitting on Governor [Ralph] Northam’s desk as we speak.”
Feldman then turned to Lewis’ bill, saying that “his bill and this bill are very, very similar.”
He noted that Lewis amended HB 32 to bring it closer to SB 0708, adding, “by the same token, I’m working on a package of amendments myself to get this bill a little closer to Delegate Lewis’ bill … I decided to hold off submitting all those amendments because I wanted to get a little feedback from this committee, Madam Chair, in all candor. But if there’s interest in moving a bill this year, I’m prepared to work with Delegate Lewis and with this committee and offer a pretty substantial set of amendments, again, to make it happen.”
But, later, Senator Joanne C. Benson pushed back, as did some other lawmakers who pointed out that Lewis’ bill does far more for equity in the industry and community reinvestment than Feldman’s bill.
“The Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, if I may tell you, feels that we were left with crumbs on the table. That’s the feeling,” Benson said, referencing the state’s medical cannabis industry, which, she said, “had its start” with the Caucus.
“Now we’re not going to go through that again with this bill here, because right now many of us are not feeling good about passing this bill. We’re just not feeling good about it because we felt that we got a little stung by the last bill,” Benson continued. “So my question now is, can you specifically tell me, Mr. Vice Chair, what has been the compromise with Delegate Jazz Lewis’ bill? What has been the compromise? Because I’m telling you, we will be very careful with this bill. Very, very careful that the bill warrants our support at this point in time because of what happened with the last bill and what we’re seeing with the contents of this bill.”
At the end of the day, though, both bills face the same reality: the governor doesn’t support legalization.
Tennessee medical cannabis bill advances.
This week, SB 854, a bill to enact the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act, passed out of the Senate Government Operations Committee and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In Connecticut, support for legalization is strong.
As of February, 66.2% of Connecticut residents support adult use cannabis legalization, according to a new Sacred Heart University poll (there were 1,000 responses).
There were some other more granular findings:
• 40.8% agree with the sentiment that cannabis is a “gateway drug”
• 71.8% think cannabis has “fewer” or “the same amount” of effects compared to alcohol
• 62.1% “support the erasure of criminal records for those previously convicted of recreational offenses/possession”
Michigan’s localities get first cut of cannabis tax revenue.
This week, the Michigan Department of Treasury has sent its first payments to localities participating in the state’s adult use cannabis industry.
More than 100 cities, villages, townships, and counties got nearly $10 million, as a result of the state’s collection of more than $31 million in FY 2020 from the excise tax (10%) on cannabis sales, which came in at $341 million.
Including fees, that means the state got a total of $45.7 million, which was further distributed to schools ($11.6 million), transportation ($11.6 million), and toward program costs.