Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jan 2017
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2017 The Washington Post Company


[photo] Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) (Algerina Perna/Baltimore

The Maryland General Assembly has hired outside counsel to aid its ethics
investigation of a state lawmaker who championed medical marijuana while
having a business relationship with a prospective dispensary, a spokesman
for the Senate president confirmed Friday.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said on the floor
of the legislative body that the ethics committee had recently tapped an
outside lawyer to help on a matter.

He told reporters afterward that he was referring to Del. Dan K. Morhaim
(D-Baltimore County), who came under scrutiny by the Joint Committee on
Legislative Ethics after The Washington Post reported he had been shaping
medical marijuana regulations without disclosing to regulators or fellow
lawmakers that he was consulting for a marijuana business.

Bringing in an outside lawyer is "very, very unusual," said Miller.
according to the Baltimore Sun. "It means we take the case very

Miller's disclosure comes a day after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced a
package of ethics reform bills, saying that he did not want "a culture of
corruption" to take root in Maryland. One proposed bill would strengthen
restrictions on lawmakers working on legislation that could benefit them
financially, and a spokesman for Hogan said the Morhaim case accentuated
the need for such legislation.

Tim Maloney, a lawyer representing Morhaim, said Miller's revelation of
the investigation into his client was an overreaction to Hogan's ethics

Maloney said he was informed about the use of an outside lawyer in the
case two months ago, and was told it was because legislative ethics
officials had a conflict because they had previously advised Morhaim on
how to juggle his dual roles.

"We were repeatedly told, 'Do not interpret us bringing outside counsel
that this has anything to do with the gravity of the situation,'" Maloney
said, adding that the investigation and the hiring of outside counsel were
supposed to be confidential.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) declined
to comment because of the confidentiality rules.

Maloney said Morhaim followed all disclosure rules after consulting with
ethics staff, who told him he did not need to list which specific
companies paid him for consulting. Morhaim disclosed that he received
income from a consulting firm and that he "may" do work in the medical
cannabis field.

Doctor's Orders, the company with which Morhaim is affiliated, was one of
several aspiring medical marijuana businesses to win preliminary licenses
to open a growing operation, processing facility and dispensary.

Maloney said regulations that Morhaim had pushed for could actually hurt
Doctor's Orders, because they would have allowed more businesses to
participate in the industry, increase competition and bar companies from
selling their licenses.
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