The Maryland state lawmaker who championed the legalization of medical marijuana in the state and last year joined a team applying to sell the drug told the Baltimore Sun on Wednesday that he should have been more transparent about his dual roles.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) is the clinical director for a company called Doctor’s Orders that is seeking a license from the state to dispense medical cannabis.
In its application, the company touts Morhaim as a “highly sought after” team member who was instrumental in legalizing the industry.
Morhaim, a doctor who fought for more than a decade for the state to legalize pot for medical use, cleared his involvement with Doctor’s Orders with state ethics officials.
But he never said publicly that he was part of a team applying for a license, despite repeated questions from The Post and even as he shepherded legislation this year to expand the types of medical professionals who could recommend cannabis. He also testified before the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission about how to administer the program.
The Sun reported Wednesday night that Morhaim said that “in hindsight,” he should have disclosed the extent of his relationship with the company, “if I knew a better way to do it.”
Thursday morning, Morhaim reiterated to The Post that he had filed all necessary disclosures with state ethics officials and alerted the General Assembly’s ethics adviser about his role as a consultant with a prospective marijuana company.
“I followed all legal requirements, and any miscommunications are unfortunate,” Morhaim said, adding that the issue was distracting from the need to get licenses issued so medical cannabis can be grown, processed and provided to patients.
“The most important thing is that thousands of Marylanders are suffering needlessly, and we need to help them,” he said.
Morhaim shared with The Post a Jan. 23 email from Dea Daly, the General Assembly’s ethics adviser, clearing him to sponsor legislation to allow midwives, dentists, podiatrists and other non-physicians to recommend medical marijuana to their patients.
Maryland ethics laws generally allow lawmakers to vote on bills affecting their industries — provided the legislation isn’t targeted specifically at their companies.
“The bill would not have a direct, financial impact on the entity for whom you consult or on you,” Daly wrote to Morhaim.
Morhaim also said this week that last fall, he told Hannah Byron, then-director of the marijuana commission, that he “intended an affiliation as a clinical medical consultant with an entity that would be applying for a Maryland license.” Byron confirmed that conversation.
Patrick Jameson, the current executive director, says he was not aware of Morhaim disclosing his position with Doctor’s Orders.
Paul Davies, who as the chair of the medical cannabis board manages meetings at which Morhaim has been given time to address regulators, declined to comment.
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of the watchdog group Common Cause Maryland, said that Morhaim should have explained his affiliation with Doctor’s Orders to the public.
“Disclosure is the public’s ability to know all of the potential influencers that can be shaping an elected official’s decisions,” Bevan-Dangel said. “When you don’t have disclosure, you don’t have trust.”