State Roundup: General Assembly turns attention to cannabis, gun safety, bamboo overgrowth

State Roundup: General Assembly turns attention to cannabis, gun safety, bamboo overgrowth

Maryland lawmakers must design a framework to turn an illegal marijuana producing and distributing industry into a legal one by July 1. (Photo by E. A. Breeden/Capital News Service)

RECREATIONAL CANNABIS BILL INTRODUCTION EXPECTED SOON: Annapolis has been abuzz since the start of the 2023 Maryland General Assembly in anticipation of the state’s recreational cannabis bill, one of the headline items on this year’s agenda. Legislative leaders have said the bill will be introduced soon — possibly Friday. Brenda Wintrode/Baltimore Banner

PIMLICO PROJECT STALLED, NO START DATE IN SIGHT: Rising construction costs and interest rates, much costlier than anticipated renovations, and a question of who eventually will own Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County have stalled progress on the complex projects of renovating Pimlico and Laurel racetracks. Hayes Garner/Baltimore Sun

OPINION: BLACK MARYLANDERS CONCERNED ABOUT GUN BILL: The recently-proposed Gun Safety Act of 2023 (Senate Bill 1) raises alarm and distrust, particularly among Black Marylanders who are concerned that this bill attacks the free exercise of their Second Amendment rights.  Chris Anderson/Capital News Service in

MONTGOMERY STUDENT ON STATE OF THE STATE MENTION: ‘IT FELT INCREDIBLE:’Jefferson Vasquez-Reyes had two thoughts when Maryland Gov. Wes Moore asked him to stand during Moore’s State of the State address on Wednesday. First, the 18-year-old Montgomery College student said, “It felt incredible,” as members of the General Assembly and invited guests burst into applause in the historic State House, and then he felt a sense of responsibility. Kate Ryan/WTOP

BILL WOULD STOP POLICE FROM SEARCHING BECAUSE OF CANNABIS ODOR: Lawmakers heard testimony this week on a bill to stop warrantless vehicle searches by police that are based solely on the odor of cannabis. Hannah Gaskill/Baltimore Sun

Sen. Ben Cardin

CARDIN’S FUNDRAISING NUMBERS FUEL SPECULATION: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) raised less than $30,000 in the final three months of 2022, according to new campaign finance reports released this week. That’s hardly peanuts, but the bottom line, and particularly Cardin’s fundraising activity in the last quarter of the year, will invite speculation that the 79-year-old lawmaker will not seek a fourth term in 2024. Josh Kurtz/Maryland Matters

  • In a previously unreported conversation with Maryland Reporter’s Len Lazarick at a Democratic event last fall, Cardin was asked if he would be running again. Cardin, who turns 80 in October, said it was “an eight-year decision” that he would need to be making, meaning that if he ran again and won, he would be 87 when his term was over. Cardin has served in elected office continuously since he was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1966 at the age of 23. He eventually became speaker of the House of Delegates, served 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and is in his third six-year term as a U.S. senator.

BGE OFFERS MORE MONEY FOR CONDUIT DEAL: BGE has upped the ante in its bid to win functional control of Baltimore’s conduit system – a 700-mile underground transmission system that voters said three months ago should remain in public hands. Mark Reutter/Baltimore Brew 

BILL WOULD HELP STOP BAMBOO INVASION: Running bamboo grows so fast and is so invasive that it’s rooting up headstones in cemeteries, crossing neighborhood property lines and becoming a “major issue” in Maryland parks. Bamboo overgrowth is the subject of a bill by Del. Linda Foley, D-Montgomery, after a constituent contacted her for help with a neighbor’s bamboo crossing the property boundary. Dorothy Hood/Capital News Service in Maryland

WATERMEN FORM CAUCUS: With the appointment of a well-known environmental leader to the state’s top natural resources position, Eastern Shore watermen believe it’s time to gear up to defend their livelihoods. About 50 commercial fishermen, along with a handful of local lawmakers, formed the nucleus of the new Eastern Shore Watermen’s Caucus to fund lobbying efforts in Annapolis and educate the public. Connie Connolly/Star Democrat

FARMERS MEET TO DISCUSS STATE CONCERNS: With a new governor in Annapolis and an appreciable turnover in the Maryland executive and legislative branches, Cecil County farmers agreed this week that they will need to be even more vigilant during the current 90-day session of the Maryland General Assembly. Sen. Jason Gallion, R-Dist. 35 spoke about being the only full-time farmer in the legislature. The group is looking for continued funding for education and county agricultural fairs, and is concerned about mandates such as one for food waste applications as fertilizer that aren’t right for all farms. Jane Bellmyer/Cecil Whig

BILL CALLS FOR TASK FORCE TO EXAMINE LONG WAIT E.R. TIMES: A Maryland Senate bill would create a task force to diagnose what’s causing long wait times at hospital emergency departments and make recommendations to resolve it. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Maryland has ranked last with the longest average wait times in the country over the past seven years. The task force would investigate best practices in other states and examine staffing patient care ratios, triage practices, how hospitals decide who goes first or next and bed availability. David Collins/The Baltimore Sun

BLACK LAWMAKERS PRESS BIDEN AND HARRIS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT REFORM: Congressional Black Caucus members met with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday evening to urge the administration to use its executive power for law enforcement reform, following criminal charges for police officers in the killing of a Black man in Memphis. Tyre Nichols, 29, was beaten by five Memphis police officers during a traffic stop on Jan. 7 and died three days later. Ariana Figueroa/Maryland Matters

POLL FINDS PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN POLICE DROPS: Public confidence in police dropped after Tyre Nichols was fiercely beaten by officers in Memphis last month, with Americans increasingly doubtful that law enforcement officers are properly trained in using appropriate force or that they treat White and Black people equally, according to a Washington Post-ABC News Poll.

WHAT HAPPENED TO POLICE REFORMS? Police officers’ beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis illustrates a stark reality: After George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis fueled nationwide protests in 2020, the sweeping overhauls that demonstrators, public officials and some law enforcement leaders called for never materialized. Instead, there has been a patchwork series of reforms scattered across some of America’s thousands of local police departments. Story includes Maryland data. Mark Berman and David Nakamura/The Washington Post

MARILYN MOSBY TO APPEAR IN COURT WITH PUBLIC DEFENDER: Former Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is set to appear in court  Friday with a public defender after a federal judge allowed her team of defense attorneys to withdraw from her criminal case this week. Judge Lydia K. Griggsby appointed a public defender after finding Mosby indigent Monday. Friday’s hearing is to decide the next steps in Mosby’s perjury and fraud trial. The trial will now likely be delayed again. Alexis Davila/WJZ-13 CBS

ANTI-ASIAN VIOLENCE DAMPENS LUNAR NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS FOR UMD STUDENTS: Amanda Vu celebrated the Lunar New Year by expressing gratitude for her community and wishing for prosperity in the new year. Those feelings were short lived. The next day, Vu, a junior at the University of Maryland, woke up to the news that 11 people were killed in Monterey Park, Calif., following a Lunar New Year’s Eve celebration. Only two days later, seven more people were killed in Half Moon Bay, Calif. With an increase in hate incidents against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community from 2020 to 2021, students at this university are trying to navigate tragedies without feeling desensitized to violence. Olivia Wolfson/The Diamondback

BILL WOULD REQUIRE PARENTS TO GET A HEADS-UP ABOUT ACTIVE-SHOOTER DRILLS: Changes may be coming to active-shooter drills at Maryland schools. State law currently requires the drills, but it doesn’t mandate that school systems notify parents, students or school staff ahead of time. Montgomery County Delegate Jared Solomon, D-District 18, introduced a bill that would require school systems to notify parents, students and staff when a drill is going to take place. Solomon said prior notification gives parents an opportunity to talk about the drill and prepare their children. House Bill 515 would prohibit live simulations of gunfire and blood, and mandates the state send rules on safe gun storage to families. David Collins/WBAL-TV

COMMITTEE WILL REVIEW DISPUTED BOOKS FOR FREDERICK CO. PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Fifty-nine people will serve on a reconsideration committee for Frederick County Public Schools, which is working to determine whether a set of challenged books will be allowed to remain on library shelves. The review stems from a complaint by former Board of Education candidate Cindy Rose, who has identified 35 books that she alleges contain inappropriate material. The committee will meet five times, starting March 2. It will include parents, students, community members and district employees. Jillian Altesek/Frederick News-Post

MISS COPPIN STATE UNIVERSITY FACES BACKLASH AS LATINA: When Keylin Perez became the first Latina to be crowned Miss Coppin State University, it was the second-most exciting moment of her life, she said, after joining the military. “I have formed great friendships,” said Perez, 22, a nursing major from Mount Airy and a sergeant in the Army Reserves. But as news spread of her accomplishment at the historically Black public university, she faced cyberbullying, much of it focused on her Latina heritage. John-John Williams IV/Baltimore Banner

FREE MTA RIDES ON SATURDAY TO MARK TRANSIT EQUITY DAY: The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) will be celebrating the life and legacy of Rosa Parks and Transit Equity Day by offering free rides on Saturday, MDOT MTA said. Community members can get free rides on Local Bus, LightRail, Metro Subway, MARC Train, Mobility, and, where operating, Commuter Bus. Transit Equity Day is observed annually nationwide on Rosa Parks’ birthday, MDOT MTA said. Emilie Kyler/WBFF-45

BETHESDA NEWS MEDIA REBRANDS: Longstanding publications Bethesda Magazine and Bethesda Beat have a new name — MoCo360. It’s the evolution of Bethesda Magazine and Bethesda Beat into one brand and one fully integrated site, reflecting its larger coverage area. Anne Tallent/MoCo360

About The Author

Meg Tully

Contributing Editor Meg Tully has been covering Maryland politics for more than five years. She has worked for The Frederick News-Post, where she reported during the General Assembly session in Annapolis. She has also worked for The (Hanover) Evening Sun and interned at Baltimore Magazine. Meg has won awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association for her state and county writing, and a Keystone Press Award for feature writing from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. She is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you have additional questions or comments contact Meg at:

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