Maryland legislation that expands the state's medical cannabis industry to include more minority ownership on Thursday passed in the House of Delegates — where it had failed in the waning minutes of the session last year.
The bill, sponsored by Delegate Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore, advanced thanks to an overwhelming majority vote. Prior to the vote, Glenn addressed the floor, thanking everybody involved for their contributions. Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, echoed Glenn after the vote.
"It was a lot of hard work on both sides of the aisle," Busch said. "Everyone came together."
House bill 2, cross-filed with Senate bill 1, encourages industry participation by minority, women and small-business owners, reforming the Natalie M. Laprade Medical Cannabis Commission.
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It establishes a 20-license cap for cannabis growers up from 15 and alters the definition of grower to mean a certain entity that cultivates or packages medical cannabis and is authorized to provide cannabis to certain entities. It also creates a 20-license cap for processors.
The legislation also institutes a "compassionate use" special fund to provide free or discounted medical cannabis to specified individuals.
The Maryland Department of Transportation's Office of Minority Business Resources Information last year conducted an analysis of business disparities in the state.
The analysis concluded minority and female entrepreneurs "earn substantially and significantly less than their nonminority male counterparts in the State of Maryland market area." The analysis said its findings are relevant to the medical cannabis industry as well.
Constitutional amendment would allow election-day voter registration
A constitutional amendment that would allow a qualified individual to register and vote at a precinct polling place on Election Day passed in the House on Thursday.
Delegate Kirill Reznik, D-Montgomery, sponsored House bill 532, with 29 other delegates listed as sponsors. A state analysis found only 16 states, along with Washington, D.C., allow for same-day registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Currently, voter registration is continuous under Maryland law, but is closed from 9 p.m. on the 21st day preceding an election until the 11th day following it.
Delegate Nicholaus Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, took to the floor to urge the chamber to reject the legislation because it lacked an amendment requiring people who register and vote on the same day to present identification.
However, the House voted, 91-47, in favor of the bill.
Legislation that allows domestic violence, stalking and human-trafficking survivors to shield property records from abusers also advanced in the House on Thursday.
House bill 633, spearheaded by Delegate Anne Healey, D-Prince George's, would establish procedures for participants in the Address Confidentiality Program or the Human Trafficking Address Confidentiality Program to use an address assigned by the Office of the Secretary of State as a substitute.
Maryland's Safe At Home Address Confidentiality Program provides a substitute address, cloaking a survivor's location, and includes a free mail-forwarding service. Healey said the purpose of the legislation is to turn what is already practice into concrete law.
The bill passed, thanks to a 136-0 vote.
Driving while on the phone
The House also passed, by a 78-58 margin, legislation increasing the maximum fine to $500 for the unlawful use of a handheld telephone while driving. The previous law included a $75 fine for a first offense, $125 for a second and $175 for a third or subsequent offense.
A state analysis for House bill 42 said during fiscal year 2017, the District Court reported 31,286 citations issued to fully licensed adult drivers using handheld telephones while operating a motor vehicle.
The House also unanimously passed legislation allowing Marylanders to claim state tax exemptions — for taxpayers, spouses and dependents — and itemized deductions.
The Senate passed Senate bill 184 on Feb. 7, and its cross-file, House bill 365, earned a 138-0 vote in the House on Thursday. An analysis from the Office of the Comptroller found the legislation could provide up to $1.2 billion in tax relief for Marylanders in fiscal year 2019.
The bills, which have the support of Gov. Larry Hogan, R, are a reaction to extensive recent changes to the federal tax code.
The Maryland Senate on Thursday passed the second part of a cyberbullying package sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County. Senate bill 725 gives authority to school principals to report cyber abuse to law enforcement directly, instead of having to first go through a board of education.
Based on legislation in Texas nicknamed "David's Law," created after 16-year old David Molak of San Antonio committed suicide in January 2016, it also makes it easier for victims to get court relief.
Under current rules, Zirkin said, civil injunctive relief requires a plaintiff to show "immediate, substantial and irreparable harm," a process he believes is slow and outdated.
"A single, huge act by that bully . you can't take it back," Zirkin said.
This comes a week after the Senate passed the first bill, Grace's Law 2.0, which updates Maryland's 2013 legislation to specifically cover abuse via social media. Senate bill 726 was named after Grace McComas, a 15-year old who killed herself in 2012 after repeated cyber abuse.
—Capital News Service reporter Zach Shapiro contributed to this report.