Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday accused a state lawmaker of illegally obtaining medical marijuana licenses and "trying to legalize heroin." When the lawmaker said Hogan owed him an apology, the governor refused.
The exchange came as Hogan announced plans to spend an extra $50 million over the next five years to combat an escalating opioid crisis that killed approximately 2,000 people in Maryland last year.
The Republican governor criticized an idea to create legal "safe spaces" in Baltimore for addicts to shoot-up heroin, a concept used in other countries and backed by two Johns Hopkins researchers. Del. Dan Morhaim, a Baltimore County Democrat, is pushing legislation to allow such spaces.
"It's absolutely insane," Hogan said when asked about the idea at a press conference. He went on to attack Morhaim, who has been under scrutiny for failing to disclose his ties to a medical marijuana company while he was advocating for rules to shape the industry. Morhaim has not been accused of any crime.
"I believe today Delegate Morhaim has the potential for being thrown out of the legislature for illegal activities and arranging to get himself two [medical] marijuana licenses after writing the legislation and lobbying to put people on the" state's Medical Cannabis Commission, Hogan said.
"Now he's trying [to] legalize heroin. I'm not sure if he's just trying to get another license to sell heroin, but his proposal is idiotic."
The governor's direct rebuke of a rank-and-file delegate is unusual by the standards of Annapolis political decorum. In the Maryland State House, lawmakers in session are forbidden from using a colleague's name on the floor without first asking permission.
Morhaim said in an email the governor's remarks were "patently false and he knows it."
Morhaim's legislation would not legalize the drug, but would protect the people who run such "safe space" clinics and their clients from criminal drug prosecution.
The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics hired an outside investigator to review whether Morhaim broke ethics rules by not disclosing his ties to the medical marijuana industry. The committee's proceedings are confidential unless it deems a public punishment is necessary.
Morhaim maintains that he "strictly complied with the ethics laws" when he agreed to be the clinical director for a medical marijuana company, which went on to win preliminary licenses to grow and dispense the drug.
"I have no [financial] interest in medical cannabis companies and did not obtain licenses for anyone," Morhaim said. "He owes me an apology."
In response, Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said "we'd advise the delegate not hold his breath. He will not be receiving an apology, or anything like it."
Mayer called on the General Assembly and the ethics committee "to make it clear what their intentions are in regard to Delegate Morhaim and whether or not he's going to be removed from the House of Delegates."
"If anyone should be giving apologies, it's the delegate to his constituents and the people of Maryland for clearly engaging in unethical behavior," Mayer said.