Opioid Crisis Response? MoCo Legislators Back State Sanctioned “Drug Dens”

By Mark Uncapher

Earlier this month, Brian Griffith broke the story in Red Maryland of “Democrats and Heroin Houses.”[1]  At issue is the favorable action of a Maryland State Senate Committee on legislation to allow so-called “Supervised Drug Consumption” facilities to “provide a place for the consumption of pre-obtained drugs, provide sterile needles, administer first aid as needed, and provide certain other services.” [2]

The proposed law’s protections for “pre-obtained drugs” is worth further explanation.  It protects the possession of illegal drugs from prosecution.

Sound incredible? Not to many of the Democratic members of our Maryland General Assembly. The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill by a 6-5 vote with the support of its Montgomery County Senate sponsor, Sen. Brian Feldman (LD-15), along with Sen. Roger Mano (LD-19).  The deciding vote came from none other than Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, who is scheduled to go on trial in April in a federal corruption case.  Other supporters include Democratic Senators Kathy Klausmeier and Jim Mathias, both whom face stiff re-election challenges in districts previously carried by Governor Hogan.

The proposed legislation comes with an elaborate “Get Out of Jail” card. “Clients” would not be subject to “arrest, prosecution or any civil or administrative penalty.”  The “Get out of Jail” card even applies to the staff, preventing any “Disciplinary Action by a Professional Licensing Board.”  Clearly exempting medical personnel from professional scrutiny is a telling admission regarding the very unorthodox nature of this “drug den” approach to the opioid epidemic.

The primary House sponsor, Del. Dan Morhaim of Baltimore County, has a checkered past with Maryland drug legislation.

Last year Morhaim was removed from a subcommittee leadership post, following ethical scrutiny over his ties to a medical marijuana company and questions over whether he properly disclosed his business interests while advocating for medical marijuana policies.

Morhaim is the clinical director of Doctor's Orders, a medical marijuana company that won a license to operate a dispensary in Baltimore. Morhaim had been the prime legislative mover of the state's medical marijuana program. He later advised state officials about how to set up the program, while at the same time working with Doctor's Orders  Yet he failed to disclose the  relationship.

Last year Delegate Morhaim offered legislation that would legalize “small amounts” of certain hard drugs, which he would have defined as less than 300 milligrams of cocaine, heroin, amphetamine or methadone or less than 5 tablets of MDMA or LSD.[3] 

While last year’s decriminalization bill died in committee, Morhaim is back again this year with his drug den, sorry “Supervised Drug Consumption Facility” bill.  Given his past record, his latest efforts may not seem surprising.  What is surprising is that in the middle of an opioid crisis in the state, so many legislators would embrace Morhaim’s hare brained approach to a very serious problem.

[1] https://redmaryland.com/2018/02/democrats-heroin-houses/

[2]  SB 288/ HB 236  http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=billpage&stab=01&id=sb0288&tab=subject3&ys=2018RS

[3] HB 488 (2017)   http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2017RS/bills/hb/hb0488F.pdf


Montgomery County Republican Party