MACo to House: Watch Revenues, Zoning on Cannabis Reform

On February 17, 2023, MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson testified before the House Economic Matters Committee in support of HB 0556 – Cannabis Reform with amendments.

The Senate Finance Committee will consider the bill’s cross-file, SB 0516, on March 9.

HB 0556 is far-reaching in scope—from renaming existing regulatory commissions, to establishing a tax regime on the sale and use of cannabis, this legislation seeks to make real the will of Maryland voters following the November 2022 legalization referedum. That said, a number of the bill’s provisions pose challenges for local government. The Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) accordingly proposes that the General Assembly consider amendments re-framing the bill’s revenue sharing structure, authorizing localities to opt-out of hosting cannabis-related facilities, and offering further clarity on language regarding local zoning.

From the MACo Testimony:

Overall, HB 556 has broad provisions to advance social justice, and promote fairness in the setup of this newly legal industry. Counties advance these matters to be productive participants in the development of a final scheme to bring about the voters’ wishes reasonably, with appropriate support for local services and governance. For these reasons, MACo SUPPORTS HB 556 WITH AMENDMENTS and welcomes the chance to work with the Committee on changes to the bill’s language described herein.

At the hearing, Mr. Sanderson raised concerns with specific language added to the proposed bill, seemingly creating a new standard for review of local zoning decisions. “The easiest path,” he said, “is just to say that it’s subject to local zoning.” On the distribution of tax revenues, he noted other comparable states shared 30% of their tax revenues with local governments, in contrast to a split of only 1.5% envisioned in the bill as introduced.

Expect the deliberations and work on this major “must pass” issue to take up a meaningful space in the legislative debates ahead this session.

More on MACo’s Advocacy:

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2023 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database

Learn more about MACo’s 2023 Legislative Initiatives

Read more General Assembly News on MACo’s Conduit Street blog

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties