Dozens of people gathered on Friday at the House Economic Matters Committee for a hearing on the omnibus bill to legalize cannabis in Maryland. More than 80 speakers, including private industry representatives, entrepreneurs, and concerned citizens, arrived to propose amendments to the bill that would create a legal market for cannabis. The legislation, an 88-page document, outlines a framework for the legal sale of cannabis in Maryland following the approval of legalization in last November’s election.
The hearing was chaired by C.T. Wilson, D-Charles, who co-sponsored the bill and emphasized that his priority was to create a regulatory structure to prevent an unregulated market when cannabis becomes legal on July 1. The bill was generally well-received by speakers, who praised its goals of fostering social equity in the cannabis industry. However, many attendees came to advocate for changes to the bill.
Representatives from the hemp industry were among the most vocal opponents, arguing that the legislation would threaten their businesses. They expressed concern that the bill’s limits on THC products would force many hemp-based products off shelves. Union representatives also proposed an amendment to ensure cannabis workers are covered by a “peace agreement” that would create more favorable conditions for unionization.
Medical dispensary owners were expected to be the first beneficiaries of the new legal cannabis market. They would have the option to convert their licenses to access the legal market. Still, strict limits on the number of dispensaries a medical license owner can operate would curb a potential first-mover advantage. Some medical operators, such as Hope Wiseman, owner of Mary & Main in Prince George’s County, testified in favor of amendments allowing current medical operators to open more locations and foster cooperation with new market entrants.
The hearing was an essential moment in the legislative calendar for those interested in the cannabis industry in Maryland. The proposed bill could have far-reaching implications for the state’s economy and could potentially create a new, billion-dollar market. With the July 1 legalization date looming, Maryland lawmakers are eager to create a framework for the legal sale of cannabis in the state.