Monday December 23rd the United States Attorney announced criminal charges against 45th district state Delegate Cheryl Glenn for wire fraud and bribery. The charges are related to legislation she sponsored and voted for in her role as a Maryland General Assembly state delegate. As a delegate, she introduced legislation regarding licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana, to loosen the requirements to run an opioid treatment clinic, and to provide a new liquor license in her east and northeast Baltimore district.
Unless sweeping reforms are made, it is almost inevitable that in Maryland, a state with lax campaign finance rules, a tolerance of public corruption, and decades-long one-party rule in the statehouse, processes like the medical marijuana program would create the opportunities for corruption.
Cheryl Glenn was a leader in the legislative process that created Maryland’s medical marijuana program. The program gave a select few people and businesses licenses to grow and produce medical marijuana. Providing monopoly licenses to a handful of elite and wealthy business owners incentivizes corruption. According to the United States Attorney's Office filing unsealed on December 23rd, when asked how a particular business got a license despite the lack of high priced lobbyists, Glenn reportedly said, “They knew God and Cheryl Glenn.”
Participation in the current legal medical and future recreational cannabis market in Maryland should not require high priced lobbyists, nor corrupt relationships with elected officials. Equity in the cannabis industry does not mean empowering a few people to profit off of legal sales.
Instead, real equity involves freeing people incarcerated for marijuana related charges including those incarcerated for parole and probation violations. Equity involves expunging the records of people who have already served their time and the charges of those never convicted. Equity involves devising a process that allows easy access to the legal cannabis market throughout the business cycle. Equity also allows and encourages democratically controlled community ownership.Most importantly equity involves investing proceeds of the legal cannabis market in rebuilding the communities most directly targeted by the war on weed, so that the concept of reparation is not limited to those engaged in the illegal market.
The General Assembly should take the lesson of Glenn’s alleged corruption and use it as an opportunity to remake the medical and recreational cannabis markets with a focus on equity and reparation.
We will also note that Green Party candidates for the 45th delegate positions Glenn Ross and Andy Ellis raised questions about the opportunities for corruption with the Medical Marijuana program during the 2018 general election, as much of the corruption documented in the filing was occurring. While were unaware of the specifics, these questions if aired on a debate stage or in a press that covered general elections may have alerted voters to this potential prior to the election.
It is important that there are debates and press coverage of general elections in Baltimore because there are issues that may be raised outside of the Democrat Primary that provide insight to reporters and voters.
Now, instead of allowing voters to pick Glenn’s replacement, seven members of the 45th District Central Committee will decide who replaces Glenn. Now more than ever it’s time to move past the antiquated party central committee appointment process and towards special elections toward democratic, publicly funded, transparent special elections.
While it is important that public corruption is prosecuted in Maryland, it is also important to notice that black lawmakers seem to be bearing a disproportionate burden of the prosecutions. The often white and wealthy people behind the corruption that occurs in this state must be prosecuted with the same vigor as prosecutors display for going after the elected officials who betray the public trust.
Finally, There are also legal forms of influence peddling via campaign donations that are designed to empower wealthy people and corporations to dictate legislative outcomes. To end public corruption we must end direct corporate donations, lower total spending allowed, and institute a rigorous and robust public financing system.
The Maryland Green Party stands committed to equitable and reparative cannabis legalization, to grassroots democracy that puts power in the hands of people and not in closed door meetings of party central committees, to broad based application of public corruption laws, and to campaign finance which levels the playing field so that no one's wealth determines their access to the legislative process.