He argued that the legislature had made it a better plan by requiring independent analysis of developers’ proposals.
“We all admit, we all agree, it’s the most expensive energy out there,” Middleton said. “But this bill has had so much scrutiny that . . . the developers will have to demonstrate in the end that they provide a net benefit to the state.”
Shortly after the Senate vote, O’Malley’s bill to repeal the death penalty cleared another hurdle when as the House Judiciary Committee voted 14 to 8 to send the measure to the full chamber for consideration next week.
The action came just two days after the Senate passed the legislation, which would make Maryland the sixth state in as many years to abolish capital punishment.
Supporters are confident they have the votes to pass the bill on the House floor. The legislation would replace death sentences with life without the possibility of parole.
In another development Friday, O’Malley suggested that he would support a bill to legalize medical marijuana, crossing a bright line the law-and-order governor had previously set against legalizing pot use for any reason.
O’Malley was nonchalant about the change in an impromptu meeting with reporters outside the State House. The governor said he is deferring to his chief health adviser on the decision.
“I’m focused on other things this year,” O’Malley said in an apparent nod to his package of gun-control legislation and the proposed repeal of the death penalty.
O’Malley won the state’s top elective office more than six years ago on a reputation as a tough-on-crime Baltimore mayor. He has repeatedly opposed efforts to legalize marijuana.
Under a mandate issued by the General Assembly in 2011, however, the O’Malley administration was tasked with developing a model program for distributing marijuana for medical purposes.
On Friday, Joshua M. Sharfstein, O’Malley’s secretary of health and mental hygiene, testified to lawmakers that the administration could support a bill allowing academic medical centers in the state to operate medical marijuana “compassionate use programs,” beginning in 2016.
The centers would have to monitor usage and patient outcomes and publish the results.
“There’s a red-light approach that just says no; a green light that says approve and go ahead,” Sharfstein said. “We support the [academic study] bill because it’s a yellow-light approach” before any further legalization.
“We need to assess. . . . There are not proven benefits, but there are proven risks,” he said.
Kate Havard and John Wagner contributed to this report.