Sign In   Register

Cannabis and Hemp Industry Investment News

Cannabis Industry Press Releases and News Articles from the best investment journalist in the industry. Stay updated on all cannabis investment news from every online source, on

Is Maryland Governor Wes Moore Blowing Smoke or Fire?

7 minutes reading time (1381 words)

While the cannabis and hemp industries have been mostly (and rightly) fixated with goings-on at the federal level, the states are where cannabis policy is enacted and where the regulatory impact of cannabis policies is truly felt, for better and worse. As a result, the state-by-state rollout of legalization has also given governors a sizable role in influencing not just the power of the state but the narrative around cannabis legalization, which they accomplish by both word and action.

The potential of this influence occurred to me as I listened to Maryland Governor Wes Moore speak on Tuesday’s Morning Joe. He was on to talk about the executive order he had signed the day before pardoning 175,000 state misdemeanor cannabis convictions, but he did not stop there. During a 4-minue segment that flew by, the governor, a naturally enthusiastic fellow, proceeded to talk up not just the pardons but the rollout of Maryland’s entire cannabis program, and he did it with a kind of cheerleader’s zeal that sounded to my ears as both political and authentic.

After complimenting “what many believe to be the most equitable and the smoothest rollout of a [program] that we’ve seen,” Governor Moore backed it up with numbers. “We have 174 new social equity licenses, people who now have the ability to sell cannabis legally. At the same time, we know you cannot talk about the benefits of legalization if you’re not willing to wrestle with the consequences of criminalization. We had over 100,000 people who still had cannabis charges, and so we say from a moral perspective, you cannot continue to have people who have records for something that is now legal and a multi-billion-dollar industry having an inability to get jobs, having an inability to go to school, having an inability to get a home. It’s an economic imperative.”

Then he made the story personal. “I was with someone named Shiloh yesterday, for example, who for years has had a misdemeanor cannabis charge that has not allowed him to keep steady work,” said the governor. “He got one job, and he was fired on the second day because he didn’t pass a background check because of that misdemeanor cannabis charge, something that is now legal. So, this was something that was really important, not just economically for the state. This was important for the individuals who received the gubernatorial pardon, but this was also really important when it came to taking a moral course for how Maryland was going to operate, how Maryland was going to lead.”

If your cynicism meter is kicking in about now, that is to be expected. The executive order was constructed for mainstream consumption, and the self-congratulating posture by the governor was grating at best. But on the other hand, isn’t that to be expected when a governor acts like an unabashed cheerleader-in chief for an entire industry? How can you complain when your chief executive is your biggest fan?

Gov. Moore was asked one follow-up question by Sam Stein, Deputy Managing Editor at Politico, who served up a fat softball. “What you’re doing in Maryland on marijuana is, to a degree, something that the Biden administration has tried to do nationally, which is essentially lower the temperature around it, get rid of the harsh penalties for use of cannabis,” he said. “But I’m wondering, as you take these proactive steps to essentially normalize cannabis use, is there more that the feds can and should be doing on that front as well, not just decriminalization but looking more towards the legalization elements?”

Gov. Moore swung for the fences. “Yes, and I applaud the Biden/Harris administration, because they’ve been able to do things that have been really important to this cause, like moving cannabis from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 3 drug,” he said. “There’s no reason that something like cannabis should have had the same classification as heroin and other synthetic drug, so that was actually an important step about the way that society looks at it, and also urging governors to be able to take this look.”

It was at this point that the governor, without prodding, truly went to bat for normalizing weed. “And the thing that I would continue to tell people is, if you’re wondering whether or not you should do this, if you’re wondering whether or not this should happen in your state, I would say this: listen to your people.

“Listen to what they’re telling you,” he reiterated, “keep your ear close to the ground, because that’s exactly what we did in the state of Maryland when we put it up for referendum. We saw overwhelmingly that the people of our state wanted this done when we were pulling together this package to now have what is the largest mass pardon in U.S. history for misdemeanor cannabis charges.

“We actually brought everybody around the table,” he added. “We had law enforcement, we had activists, we had community members, and we had people who were involved in business and in the industry. Everybody had a seat at the table. So, for anyone wondering how you go about doing this, or whether or not this is a good thing, I think you should do what we did in Maryland, listen to your people, and they’ll tell you what the right direction to go in is.”

And then he was gone, his impressive pitch a memory for however many people were tuned in that early to Morning Joe, but to be repeated throughout the week during other appearances. I thought to myself, no matter what his genuine motives are for supporting legal cannabis in Maryland – and hopefully they are the same ones he utters publicly – what an incredible spokesperson to have in your corner. How do you put a price on it?

I thought about similar dynamics in other states. In Hawaii, Governor Josh Green has supported thus-far unsuccessful efforts to add adult-use to the state’s existing medical program, and should be a big help in future efforts to get adult-use across the finish line. But his support is at least partly offset by the anti-cannabis stance of former Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, who testified against the recent bill to legalize adult-use during legislative hearings, which only underscores the fact that governors, no matter which side they are on, are seen by constituents and legislators alike as players in the cannabis space.

To that point, it’s safe to say New York Governor Kathy Hochul rues the day her predecessor put cannabis legalization into play in a manner that all but assured an ass-backward rollout of the program, but that has not stopped her from trying to step up as New York’s Cannabis Queen and fix a mess that was years in the making, expending valuable political (and actual) capital in the process.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, as an elected member of the state executive branch since 2011, has pretty much overseen the entire rollout of California’s adult-use program and a legal market that today appears to be in serious decline, which may be why he is as mum on the subject as Governor Moore is verbose. The same might be true of Colorado Governor Jared Polis, another longtime supporter of legalized medical and adult-use cannabis whose state, while a bona fide cannabis OG, is struggling to find market balance in today’s highly competitive environment.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis oversees a very large medical program that he appears to both support and loathe. In a similar dichotomy, he is clearly disdainful of adult-use, but he also unexpectedly vetoed a bill that would have banned Delta 8 and other hemp products. Why he did that is unclear, but what is clear is that his signature showed the raw power these governors have over the industry.

What is also clear is that some governors are using that power more directly than they used to, with varying motives. Some, Like Gov. Hochul, have been forced to make drastic changes because of serious problems within their state regulatory bodies, while others, like Gov. Moore, see a rare opportunity to ride a massive wave of optimism that with a little help could break in his favor at just the right moment.

(Originally posted by Tom Hymes)


© Cannabis Business Executive

Related Posts