Maryland Governor Approves Bills on Cannabis Reform, Abortion Protection, Gender-Affirming Treatment

The six bills form a cohesive wellness package meant to make Maryland a healthier place.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed six new bills into law on Wednesday, CBS News reports. The bills, in a win for social liberals across the state and country, collectively cover protections for gender-affirming health care, abortion, and cannabis reform. Let’s start by reviewing the cannabis legislation. 

Back in November, Maryland voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution to allow adults 21 and older to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis legally. 67% of adults voted in favor of the bill, which creates the licensing and tax rates. The tax rate for adult use in Maryland will be 9%.

Legalization is always wonderful, considering it means fewer people in prison. However, looking at mass legal cannabis exoduses from other states such as California, thanks to the red tape, expenses, and hurdles of setting up legally, such bills also admittingly make one think that sometimes the industry legal cannabis helps the most is the black market. 

Recreational cannabis sets up shop in Maryland starting on July 1. The existing medical cannabis dispensaries will receive dual licenses to enter the adult-use market. In addition, in an effort to make amends for the racist casualties of the War on Drugs, priority for additional recreational licenses will be given to minority business owners in communities that have been negatively affected by past marijuana laws. As data from the ACLU shows, despite equal usage rates, Black people are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana. “This will ensure the rollout of recreational cannabis in our state drives opportunity in an equitable way,” Gov. Moore said. “The criminalization of marijuana harmed low-income communities and communities of color in a profound way. We want to make sure the legalization of marijuana lifts those communities now in a profound way.”

Earlier this week, Gov. Moore shut down concerns about his conflicts of interest. He had roughly $1.2 million of stock in a cannabis company, which was transferred into a blind trust managed by Brown Investment Advisory & Trust Company and approved by The State Ethics Commission last week.

Regarding the other bills signed into effect, two measures intend to expand access to affordable health insurance. One will automatically enroll folks into Medicaid who are eligible but not yet signed up in an effort to reduce paperwork and give insurance to an estimated 65,000 uninsured Marylanders. Another bill includes a package of mental health care that aims to get folks help before their mental health concerns become an emergency, such as setting up a suicide and crisis prevention hotline. 

Regarding abortion, in light of Roe v. Wade being overturned, one Maryland bill aims to protect patients and providers from criminal, civil, and administrative penalties relating to abortion bans or restrictions in other states, CBS reports. Another is a data-privacy bill that protects medical and insurance records in electronic health information sharing. Additionally, Gov. Moore signed a bill to ensure that Maryland’s public colleges and universities have a viable plan to give students easy access to emergency contraception and medical abortion (abortion pills). 

Because of restrictive abortion laws in other states, Maryland is becoming a “safe haven state” where people travel to obtain reproductive care unavailable in their hometown. 

And as for gender-affirming health care, one of the six bills regards The Trans Health Equity Act and expands on how many gender-affirming procedures will be covered by Maryland’s Medicaid program. Under the legislation, which goes into effect on January 1, Medicaid will cover additional gender-affirming treatments.

All of the six bills, from cannabis to gender-affirming health care, tie together in a cohesive wellness package. For example, research shows that access to gender-affirming care reduces suicide rates, so ideally, all six bills will make Maryland a safer and healthier place for its residents. 

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