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Hogan signs bills to raise smoking age, legalize marijuana edibles and expand child-care tax credits

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), center, signs bills flanked by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County).
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), center, signs bills flanked by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County). (Brian Witte/AP)

Maryland will raise the smoking age to 21, legalize edible medical-marijuana products and increase child-care tax credits under bills signed into law Monday by Gov. Larry Hogan.

Even though the smoking age will be 21 for most people, members of the military will still be allowed to buy tobacco products at age 18. A companion bill will close a loophole so that vaping pens — widely blamed for an uptick in teen nicotine use — will be regulated like cigarettes.

The state will also enhance its tax credit for working parents, allowing families who earn up to $141,000 to claim at least part of the state’s child-care tax credits, up from the previous threshold of $50,000. It’s one of several laws among the 180 Hogan (R) signed Monday that were crafted to help mothers, including one enhancing jail time for violent crimes committed against pregnant women and several initiatives aimed at reducing the number of women who die during pregnancy or childbirth.

As the state’s once-troubled medical-marijuana industry begins to find its footing, the state expanded a program to allow dispensaries to sell pot brownies and other edible forms of the drug and to let research institutions study the effects of medicinal use. At the same time, a new antitrust law enacted Monday will place a cap on the number of medical-marijuana businesses a single company can own.

State lawmakers passed 864 bills this year, according to state records, and several hundred are still awaiting Hogan’s signature or veto. The governor can also allow bills to become law without his signature.

Hogan has so far vetoed just four bills this year, and the majority-Democratic General Assembly overrode each veto before adjourning its session April 8.

Other legislation signed Monday will make Maryland the first state to use tax returns to recruit uninsured people onto Medicaid or low-cost health-care policies.

The bill creates a checkoff box on state tax returns where people without insurance can opt into a program to help find it. Maryland would then be able to automatically enroll people in Medicaid or help them buy low-cost policies through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

Another first-of-its-kind law will let Prince George’s County become the first school system in the nation to use public-private partnerships to build schools. Prince George’s officials say the strategy removes so many bureaucratic hurdles that schools could be built 14 years sooner and as much as 20 percent cheaper. The district initially plans to build five to seven schools under the new system.

With $8.5 billion work backlog, Pr. George’s schools look to public-private partnerships

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