Missing the deadline by just seconds, the General Assembly's last minute attempts to push through medical marijuana reform failed late Monday night.Ultimately, Maryland legislators spent too long figuring out a way to combine the different House and Senate medical marijuana bills into a single package that could pass in both chambers. The last ditch attempt at marijuana reform failed. At issue was how Maryland chooses which businesses can grow medical cannabis in the state. Last year, 15 companies were approved as growers. However, some applicants were not included in the final list and argued that the approval process was unfair and discriminatory. The General Assembly came close to passing legislation to fix the medical marijuana grower approval process. Right before midnight, the Maryland House Health and Government Operations Committee agreed to the terms in the Senate's reform package. That committee vote sent the Senate's bill to the floor, unaltered. With the clock ticking closer to midnight, legislators rushed to record their votes as quickly as possible. The bill passed a procedural vote 84-51, allowing it to move onto a final vote.
At this point, lobbyists and industry workers began celebrating, assuming that the bill had passed. But what they didn't realize was that a number of Republican lawmakers had requested speaking time to explain their votes. Under the General Assembly rules, legislators may request up to two minutes each to explain reasoning behind their votes. The bill's sponsors were powerless to prevent the procedural motions.
This type of filibuster is often used at the very end of legislative sessions to stall for time and prevent a bill's passage. While many are criticizing the parliamentary maneuvering, the main blame falls on the legislation's sponsors who waited until the last seconds of the legislative calendar to try to push it through.
As Republican lawmakers began using up their allotted speaking time, the clock struck midnight without a final vote being held. With that, medical marijuana reform failed, at least during this legislative session.
Unless the state legislature is called into a special session, which is highly unlikely, reforming Maryland's medical marijuana laws will have to wait until next year.