HOUSE PASSES TWO CANNABIS REFORM BILLS: The Maryland House of Delegates approved two bills Friday to reform the state’s marijuana laws – one would allow voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana and another to permit those convicted of possessing the drug to request their records be expunged. E.A. Breeden of Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter.
- Voters would decided in November whether to legalize recreational marijuana use for people 21 and older. The measure, which has not yet been considered by the Senate, authorizes a state constitutional amendment that would appear on the ballot for the general election. If approved, the regulatory details, such as how to tax sales, would be decided by the General Assembly and take effect in July 2023. Jeff Barker and Bryn Stole/The Baltimore Sun.
- Additionally, the chamber passed House Bill 837 to study the racial impacts of cannabis legalization, create a public health fund, alter the civil and criminal penalties and create a process of expungement for possession of the drug. Hannah Gaskill/Maryland Matters.
- Del. Gabriel Acevero, of Montgomery County, said he supports legalization, but it also is important “that we repair the harm that was done to the communities that have been disproportionately impacted.” Joel McCord/WYPR-FM
LAWMAKERS RESCIND SCHOOL MASK MANDATE: Maryland lawmakers voted Friday to rescind a statewide emergency regulation that had mandated the use of face masks in schools since August. Lillian Reed/The Baltimore Sun.
WHAT THE SCHOOLS ARE DOING: Montgomery County Public Schools said Saturday the school board is “anticipated” to vote in favor of removing a mask mandate at a meeting on March 8. Although the outcome of the vote isn’t definite, one board member says she and another board member discussed the idea of putting out the message to give the community advance notice. Dan Schere/Bethesda Beat.
- On Feb. 18, the first day masking was optional, Broadneck High Principal Rachel Kennelly said about half of students wore a mask and half did not. Fewer and fewer students have worn a mask since, she said, as they navigate what they feel comfortable with. Rachael Pacella/The Capital Gazette.
- Wicomico County Public Schools announced that they would be ending their mask mandate ‘effective immediately’ Sunday evening. The school system announced in a tweet just after 7 p.m. on Sunday that masks would be optional for students, staff and visitors inside of their school facilities. Ivy Lyons/WTOP-FM.
- Officials announced Friday Prince George’s County will end its indoor mask mandate Monday, a directive which has been in effect since last August. The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases decline locally and nationally following a surge caused by the highly transmissible omicron strain of the virus. Johanna Alonso/The Daily Record.
ELECTION OFFICIALS SCRAMBLE AMID REDISTRICTING CHALLENGES: With court cases against local, state and congressional redistricting plans proceeding, election officials across Maryland are scrambling to prepare for the fast-approaching June 28 primary. David Garreis, Anne Arundel County’s election director and president of the Maryland Association of Election Officials, said local boards of elections are already recruiting election workers and looking for polling places for the primary while working to implement redistricting plans enacted by state and local lawmakers — even as those maps are being challenged in court. Bennett Leckrone/Maryland Matters.
OPINION: A TAX CUT GIMMICK TO BELIEVE IN: Every once in a while, Democrats surprise me and introduce legislation in the General Assembly that actually works for Maryland taxpayers. Surprising nobody, the Democrats in the House of Delegates have unveiled an election-year tax-cut package. It primarily relates to child care and medical items. … Look, we all know that this package is an election-year gimmick designed to say that Democrats have cut taxes for working Marylanders. … Yet just because something is a political gimmick doesn’t necessarily make it bad policy. Brian Griffiths/The Carroll County Times.
Get your commentary published: In recent weeks, Maryland Reporter has published a wide range of opinion on issues that are before the General Assembly — or should be, writers say. Subjects like soft drinks for kiddie meals, security of mail-in ballots, car pricing on the internet, the hazards of corporate taxation and the fears of people with disabilities about assisted dying, If you have a commentary about Maryland government and politics you’d like to see published, send it along to Len@MarylandReporter.com. It needs to be exclusive to Maryland Reporter and 700 words or less.
ANALYSIS: DOES MOSBY’s NON-PROSECUTION REALLY RAISE CRIME? Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has kicked off each of the past few years with an announcement expanding the list of charges that her office will no longer prosecute, making a notable dent in rates of mass incarceration and demonstrating to the city that the sky won’t fall if police stop busting people for non-violent offenses such as drug possession. … Looking at the actual numbers of those who avoided lengthy incarceration because of Mosby’s policies, it seems impossible that fewer than 300 people not prosecuted for sex work and fewer than a thousand people not prosecuted for drug possession over two years could change the mood and tenor of crime in the city or lead to increased “lawlessness.” Brandon Soderberg/The Real News.
ARUNDEL REVIEWS LAWSUIT ON GUN STORE SECURITY: Anne Arundel County is reviewing a lawsuit aimed at voiding a bill passed by the County Council in January that is designed to prevent smash-and-grab style burglaries at gun stores by imposing more security requirements. Dana Munro/The Capital Gazette.
PRINCE GEORGE’S MOVES TO CONSOLIDATE ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS: The Prince George’s County school board approved a plan to consolidate its five alternative schools into three campuses over pleas from community members to keep all the schools open. Nicole Asbury/The Washington Post.
LIQUOR STORES REMOVE RUSSIAN BOOZE: Sunday afternoon, Virginia announced its state-run alcoholic beverage stores would take Russian-based vodka brands off store shelves. Later on Sunday, Maryland’s Montgomery County decided it would do the same. Some of the Russian-named beverages will remain on the shelves because their companies are not based in Russia, Stolichnaya and Smirnoff being two. Matthew Delaney/WTOP-FM.
SUPREME COURT PICK HAS B’MORE LINK: President Joe Biden’s pick as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Miami — but also has a close connection to Baltimore. Her brother, Ketajh Brown, served with the Baltimore Police Department from October 2001 through May 2008 and was last assigned to the Eastern District, police spokesman Det. Donny Moses confirmed. Jessica Anderson and The Associated Press/The Baltimore Sun.
GRAVESTONES TOPPLED AT UKRAINIAN CEMETERY: As they deal with heartbreak, watching Russia invade their home country, the Ukrainian community in the Baltimore area is dealing with tragedy of its own. Baltimore County Police are investigating vandalized tombstones at the St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church Cemetery in Dundalk. Staff/WMAR-TV.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO: Department of General Services Secretary Ellington Churchill.
MARYLANDERS FOR AFFORDABLE RX: Marylanders for Affordable Rx is educating policymakers and the public on the real reasons behind high prescription drug costs and exposing special interests that are out to pad their bottom line at the expense of Maryland’s hardworking people. Across the country and in our state, we see special interests, like Big Pharma and the independent pharmacy lobby, push agendas that would make it harder for patient advocates like pharmacy benefit managers to negotiate for lower prescription drug costs. Learn more and help us stop special interests from increasing our Rx costs. (Paid Advertising)