The 138-to-0 vote for a resolution of reprimand follows an investigation by the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, which concluded that Morhaim’s actions were “improper” and violated the principles — if not the letter — of state ethics law.
“It is our duty to uphold the integrity of this body by rejecting improper influences,” Del. Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), co-chair of the ethics committee, said on the House floor Friday.
She chided Morhaim for failing to tell the General Assembly’s ethics adviser that he would appear before the state medical marijuana commission to advocate specific policies and for allowing Doctor’s Orders, the company that hired him, to cite his legislative position in its dispensary application.
Morhaim frowned and closed his eyes as Jones read from the ethics committee’s report. He was excused from voting and did not address the chamber. Dels. Trent M. Kittleman (R-Howard) and Meagan C. Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel) were absent.
The ethics inquiry followed a JulyWashington Post report that revealed Morhaim’s involvement as a consultant and prospective medical director for Doctor’s Orders, and subsequent reporting on how the longtime champion for medical cannabis lobbied for policies while affiliated with an industry player.
The investigation found no violations of disclosure laws or evidence that Morhaim intentionally tried to use his public office for financial benefit. But it concluded that the 22-year lawmaker improperly used his influence to have an open line to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission and pushed policies that could have benefited Doctor’s Orders.
The Democratic-majority legislature stopped short of formally censuring Morhaim, which drew criticism from Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
“Somebody who has such complete disregard for the ethics laws of Maryland should be removed from office rather than slapped on the wrist,” Hogan said Friday. Of the legislature, he said: “It seems like they always want to sweep things under the rug and not take real action.”
In a letter to his colleagues, Morhaim apologized for tarnishing the image of the legislature but maintained he did nothing wrong. “Indeed, it was not enough to technically comply with the law,” the letter says. “I failed to appreciate public perception of these issues.”
Content Originally Published by Washington Post
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