Reznik Report from Annapolis – Halfway Point

March 3, 2022

This past Monday marked the 45th day or the halfway point of the Legislative Session. Though there is still a lot of work left to do, we have gotten a lot done. Next Monday will mark the last of my budget hearings. Once that happens, my subcommittee will begin the task of collecting all of the analyses, testimony, and recommendations, and heading into budget decisions.

On the legislative front, we are now on the House floor every day debating, amending, and voting on legislation. As always, the last half of session is a sprint to get the work done.

Cannabis Reform and Legalization

The House voted to pass HB 1 and HB 837, which, if approved by the voters, would legalize marijuana use in Maryland for those over 21, and put into place more guidance in terms of criminality, health data, and industry regulation.

I want to stress that HB 1 is a referendum that will put the question to the voters on the ballot this coming general election. I know that marijuana use and legalization is a polarizing topic, and many have very strong feelings on the matter. This is not something that the legislature has taken lightly – a great deal of thought and conversation has gone into this legislation, and it is all subject to the will of the people of Maryland.

HB 837 is a more robust bill that will help to implement cannabis legalization, IF approved by the voters in November. Some of the things included in HB 837 are:

▪ Simple possession of 1.5 ounces or less is a civil offense, fine not exceeding $100 and up to 2.5 ounces is a civil offense, fine not exceeding $250
▪ Expungement and sentence reconsideration
▪ Marijuana cannot be smoked in public, in accordance with the Clean Indoor Air Act
▪ A baseline study so that the General Assembly can compare cannabis statistics pre and post-legalization. This includes studying community health effects, use disorder, impaired driving, hospitals, advertising, etc.
▪ Commission a disparity study to ensure Maryland’s future licensing structure can pass constitutional scrutiny
▪ Creates a Minority and Women Owned Cannabis Business Assistance Fund to help individuals enter the cannabis industry.

My Legislation

HB 247, my bill to create a Medigap birthday rule in Maryland, passed out of the house by a vote of 121-0, and is now on it’s way through the Senate. It has taken multiple years of work to get to this point, and I’m so happy that we’re this much closer to it being a reality.

HB 373 will be on third reader this week, which is the final stage before it crosses to the senate. This bill creates minimum staffing requirements in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. You may have seen some news stories recently about this office, as they have been woefully understaffed for years, and bodies have literally been piling up in the hallways. Aid has been requested from FEMA, as there are just not enough medical examiners and pathologists to keep up with the number of deaths in Maryland that require an autopsy by a Medical Examiner. If the department of health is not able to hire and retain Medical Examiners, then they need to be held accountable.

I will also have a bill hearing this week for HB 857, to provide free breakfast and lunch to all Maryland school children. Throughout the pandemic, we have been utilizing federal funds to expand the meals provided through schools, and shown that it is feasible. Students learn better when they aren’t hungry, and when all kids at a school receive these meals, it lessens the stigma for the kids whose families can’t afford it otherwise. We have partnered with some amazing non profits, like MD Hunger Solutions, to advocate for our kids, and I’m excited to see how this goes.

Invasion of Ukraine

Some of you may know that I was born in Kyiv, Ukraine and immigrated to the United States when I was a young boy. Given my connection, you can imagine the situation in Ukraine this week has been difficult to watch. With Russian forces invading the country, destroying hospitals, schools, and even the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial, my family has been frantically trying to keep up with the situation and connect with friends who still live in country.

As the first Ukrainian-born American Legislator in the US, it has been quite a shock to constantly hear the name of the country of your birth, in the news and on the lips of everyone around you. My colleagues in Annapolis have showered me with love and support the likes of which I cannot properly put into words. Democrats, Republicans, members of the House, Senate, and the Governor and his staff have all reached out. This has united us in a way that is truly heartfelt.

The State, through the actions of the Governor, Speaker, and Senate President have taken a number of actions to show our support. Some are symbolic and others are designed to put economic pressure on the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin and his allies. This evening, they held a prayer vigil attended by hundreds outside of the State House.

I want to share some of the pictures from this evening with you and hope that this conflict comes to a peaceful end soon.

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Please continue to reach out to my office on your thoughts about legislation or with needs for constituent services. I can always be reached at (301) 858-3039 or at kirill.reznik@house.state.md.us.

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