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MCR Updates: Medical Marijuana and Whistle-Blowing in Maryland

Moving forward in the State of Maryland is a lawsuit from a Richard Montgomery High School teacher. Mr. Brian Donlon, who teaches social studies, initially filed the complaint in late 2014. He disclosed to reporters that Richard Montgomery was inflating the true number of students who took Advanced Placement courses by providing AP credit for the students enrolled in the Middle Years Programme.

After describing AP course inflation to reporters, he has claimed that his employers penalized him through various fronts. Mr. Donlon stated that MCPS criticized him extensively, assigned him a class he asked not to teach, and made him a floating teacher. He is suing for attorney fees and monetary compensation.

The point of contention lies in whether or not Mr. Donlon, as a teacher for MCPS, is also an employee of the state. Maryland’s whistleblower laws typically protect employees who expose their employer’s unethical or illegal behavior. However, if Mr. Donlon is not counted as a state employee, he is not entitled to those same whistleblower protections.

The case has slowly worked its way up the Maryland appeals system. The circuit court overturned an initial ruling in MCPS’ favor, but last July, an appellate bench again sided with the state. This past December, the Maryland Court of Appeals (Maryland’s highest court) has announced that it will hear this case. Both parties have declined to comment about the case.

The legalization of marijuana has also been a source of dispute for years, and the question was brought to our home turf nearly five years ago, when a Maryland law initiated the state medical marijuana program. However, only in early December of 2017, after a period of extensive debate and bureaucratic delay, did a state-regulated program begin operations.

Consumer demand has been exceedingly high: many patients have waited for years to buy legal marijuana for medicinal purposes. More than 18,000 people are registered as medical marijuana patients, followed by another 5,000 with pending requests. As a result, several dispensaries ran out of product within the first few days of operations. The scarcity of supply has led to spiraling prices: patients are paying $480 to $680 per ounce of marijuana.

However, more dispensaries and producers are expected to be in business soon. According to WTOP, Brian Lopez, chairman of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, stated, “All of the dispensaries are showing great progress.”

After completing a form on the commission’s website, they must hold an in-person meeting with a registered doctor (upwards of 700 doctors have registered with the state thus far, a number that is rapidly rising). Doctors are not permitted to prescribe medical marijuana under Maryland statute, but they may issue certifications to be processed by the commission. Minors may also access medical marijuana under state statute, provided that their parent and or guardian has approved of and is also registered with the commission.

Detractors say that any easing of marijuana restrictions will send a potentially dangerous message to teens, who may be encouraged to try out the drug for purposes other than medical. Recreational use of marijuana, while legal in some states, remains illegal in Maryland.

One obstacle-- setting up banking accounts-- has proved particularly challenging for dispensaries and growers alike. For banks, the marijuana industry is dangerous territory; after all, although 29 state legislatures have given a thumbs-up on the medical marijuana industry, federal restrictions remain stringent.

Severn Savings Bank, in Anne Arundel County, has emerged as the first bank in Maryland willing to do business with medical marijuana dispensaries and growers. Multiple companies have reported that they have successfully opened business accounts with the local Annapolis bank.

The stigma surrounding the cannabis industry remains a key deterrent for other banks, who remain unwilling to assume the risks of associating with medical marijuana businesses. With few other alternatives, the partnership between Severn Bank and the medical marijuana industry in Maryland may prove mutually beneficial as the young industry takes its first few steps out of the shadows.

Written by Emily Tian

Published by PR Department

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