Town lobbyist alerts council to cannabis reform bill, questions impact on town partnership with Trulieve

by Geoff Fox & Kate Shunney

A cannabis reform bill in committee in both the Maryland House and Senate has town officials wondering what effect it could have on the Town of Hancock and its partnership with Trulieve moving forward.

Trulieve, formerly Harvest, is a grower and processor of medical cannabis in Hancock. The Town of Hancock has a five percent ownership stake in the company as a result of partnership set up in the early days of the business.

Delegates C. T. Wilson (D- Charles) and Vanessa E. Atterbeary (D-Howard) and Senators Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery) and Antonio Hayes (D-Baltimore City) have sponsored HB0556 and SB0516 – the bills that would establish a regulatory and licensing system for adult-use cannabis. Those rules are expected to impose sale and use taxes on the sale of that cannabis; establish the Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement Division in the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Cannabis Commission; require the division to convert medical cannabis licenses to licenses to operate a medical and adult-use cannabis business and more.

During the February town meeting, Ivan Lanier, President/CEO of Greenwill Consulting, told town officials that bill had language that could potentially impact the town’s interest in Trulieve.

Trulieve, formally Harvest, and the Town of Hancock entered into an agreement in 2015 where the town owned a five percent, non-voting, interest in the company.

The money coming in from that interest is currently being used, in part, for community revitalization grants for businesses.

Lanier said Greenwill had done a quick review of the bill and would be doing another in-depth review.

He said there could be language that would prohibit a municipality or government agency from owning a percentage of a license.

Greenwill reps will work with Town Attorney Ed Kuczynski to see whether or not Hancock would be grandfathered in if the bill were to pass, he said.

Right now, Lanier said, lawmakers are working on this bill as emergency legislation and when the cannabis reform bill would pass, it wouldn’t take effect until July 1.

“But we’re going to be working with council just to make sure that our interest is protected and our investment is protected,” Lanier said.

With bills being upwards of 88 pages, there could be “danger” lying in the upper pages of the bill.

Lanier said once they get Kuczynski’s legal eyes on the bill and it gets back to Greenwill, it would be taken to the Attorney General’s office for a clear opinion that Hancock continues to be made whole with their investment and partnership with Trulieve.

According to the Fiscal and Policy Note First Reader for SB 516, “a constitutional officer or secretary of a principal department of the Executive Branch, a member of the General Assembly, or an employee of the enforcement division” is restricted from having specified financial, employment, or ownership interests with a cannabis business in the state.

The Hancock News reached out to Senators Mike McKay and bill sponsor Brian Feldman for comment on the impact of the bill on the Hancock and Trulieve partnership. Neither senator responded by press time.