The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) released its 2020 Gubernatorial Scorecard last week. The cannabis advocacy nonprofit reviews the governor of each state each year based on their voting records and public comments on cannabis and gives them a letter grade. This year, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan received a ‘C’ and Virginia governor Ralph Northam, a ‘B+.’
According to NORML, Hogan, a Republican often offered up as an antidote to Trumpism and wildly popular in fervidly Democratic Maryland (and also the subject of an investigative piece by Washington Monthly about his rather Trump-like finances and business dealings), received his ‘C’ primarily because he signed last year’s House Bill 17. HB 17 allowed, for the first time in Maryland, the sales of edibles to medicinal patients, an important adjustment to medicinal restrictions. HB 17 also enabled academic institutions—and their “related medical facility, or an affiliated biomedical research”—to register with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission to purchase cannabis for research purposes.
Otherwise, Hogan’s ‘C’ from NORML was based on a rather hedged 2018 comment where he said legalization was “worth taking a look at.” It is worth noting that in 2015 when the Maryland General Assembly passed Senate Bill 17, which decriminalized smoking cannabis in public and possession of cannabis-related paraphernalia—essentially making up for an oversight in 2014’s initial decriminalization bill which did not address paraphernalia—Hogan vetoed the bill. That veto was overridden.
Hogan is one of eleven governors to get a C grade and one of the 37% of Republican governors to get a C or better, so by Republican standards, he’s nearly exemplary.
Virginia’s Ralph Northam, a Democrat—and he of that 2019 scandal in which a 1984 medical school yearbook photo apparently showed him in blackface standing with someone dressed up as a Klansmen at a party—received a ‘B+’ due to a number of bills he has signed. Those included, NORML explained, Senate Bill 1557, which allowed licensed physicians and nurse practitioners to recommend medicinal cannabis, and Senate Bill 1632, which allows people who are registered to use medicinal cannabis to use it on school grounds (and during school-sponsored activities) and also allows school nurses to administer medicinal cannabis.
Northam has also been a vocal advocate of decriminalization, which has not yet happened in Virginia, but now seems imminent. At the beginning of 2019, during his State of the Commonwealth speech, Northam separated cannabis use and possession from “offenses that are a true threat to public safety,” connected decriminalization to criminal justice reform, and stressed the need to expunge the records of folks with cannabis charges. In 2017, when Northam was running for governor, removing criminal penalties for cannabis was a notable part of his platform. Northam is one of twelve governors who received a ‘B’ (meanwhile, nine governors, all of them Democrats, received an A grade).
Images via NORML.