Morhaim fac­ing ethics in­quiry

Del­e­gate’s ties to med­i­cal mar­i­juana in­dus­try ques­tioned

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Erin Cox

Ethics staff for the Gen­eral Assem­bly are con­duct­ing a pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Del. Dan K. Morhaim’s ties to the med­i­cal mar­i­juana in­dus­try, ac­cord­ing to three peo­ple with di­rect knowl­edge of the in­quiry.

The pre­lim­i­nary work pre­cedes an Oct. 19 meet­ing of the Joint Com­mit­tee on Leg­isla­tive Ethics, where some of Morhaim’s col­leagues in the leg­is­la­ture will vote on whether to launch a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his con­duct.

Morhaim pushed to le­gal­ize med­i­cal mar­i­juana in the state, ad­vo­cated for the rules gov­ern­ing the in­dus­try and was a paid con­sul­tant for a com­pany awarded two of the lu­cra­tive li­censes to grow and dis­pense the drug.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion would con­sider whether he vi­o­lated any state ethics laws.

Morhaim de­clined to dis­cuss the pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He is­sued a state­ment by email Thurs­day that said, “I fol­lowed all ethics rules and reg­u­la­tions. I will co­op­er­ate fully with the Leg­isla­tive Ethics Com­mit­tee.”

Morhaim, a physi­cian and a 22-year vet­eran of the leg­is­la­ture, has come un­der scru­tiny for his dual role as a chief ar­chi­tect Dan Morhaim

of the law le­gal­iz­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana and a con­sul­tant for an as­pir­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana com­pany.

He con­sulted for a com­pany called Doc­tor’s Or­ders and later agreed to be­come its clin­i­cal di­rec­tor if it won a li­cense to op­er­ate a dis­pen­sary. But he did not pub­licly ac­knowl­edge that re­la­tion­ship un­til it was re­ported by news or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Morhaim told The Bal­ti­more Sun in July that he took “one mod­est pay­check” for be­ing a con­sul­tant. In his pub­lic fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sures, filed in July 2015, he noted a pos­si­ble con­flict of in­ter­est be­cause he “may do med­i­cal con­sult­ing and/or treat­ment” in “ad­dic­tion is­sues, med­i­cal cannabis.”

In the fall of 2015, Doc­tor’s Or­ders filed an ap­pli­ca­tion with the Mary­land Med­i­cal Cannabis Com­mis­sion that des­ig­nated Morhaim as clin­i­cal di­rec­tor. Dur­ing the 2016 Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion, Morhaim suc­cess­fully ad­vo­cated for an ex­pan­sion of the state law to al­low more pa­tients to get the drug.

Morhaim has ap­peared reg­u­larly be­fore the com­mis­sion as it set up the in­dus­try and he has tes­ti­fied on pol­icy de­ci­sions.

He has said his af­fil­i­a­tion with Doc­tor’s Or­ders is not a con­flict of in­ter­est and he fol­lowed all dis­clo­sure rules.

Al­though he has also said he re­gret­ted not be­ing more trans­par­ent about his re­la­tion­ship with the com­pany, he has de­fended his con­duct, say­ing he sought and re­ceived ap­proval from the leg­is­la­ture’s ethics coun­sel.

“In each mo­ment, as I went, I fol­lowed all the rules the best that I knew how,” he said in July.

Deadra Daly, ethics coun­sel to the Gen­eral Assem­bly, sent a let­ter to Morhaim in July re­view­ing his dis­clo­sure fil­ings and say­ing her ad­vice was based on the facts he pro­vided. In the same let­ter, she noted that the law re­quires law­mak­ers to dis­close if they’re be­ing com­pen­sated to ap­pear be­fore state agen­cies.

Del. Marvin E. Holmes, co-chair of the ethics com­mit­tee, would not dis­cuss the pur­pose of the Oct. 19 meet­ing. But he em­pha­sized that the role of the com­mit­tee is to make sure the pub­lic trusts elected of­fi­cials.

“That’s one of the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the ethics com­mit­tee, to make sure that the pub­lic un­der­stands we are here to serve them and not our­selves,” Holmes said. “As chair of this com­mit­tee, that’s ex­actly what I’m go­ing to as­sure that the pub­lic un­der­stands.”

Records show Doc­tor’s Or­ders, which has al­ready won pre­lim­i­nary li­censes to grow and process the drug, de­scribed Morhaim as an in­te­gral part of its team, say­ing he would “work closely with the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer in the de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of Doc­tor’s Or­ders strate­gies, poli­cies and pro­ce­dures, and staff train­ing to en­sure or­ga­ni­za­tional ef­fec­tive­ness and com­pli­ance with rules and reg­u­la­tions.”

The com­pany’s ap­pli­ca­tions de­scribed Morhaim as a “highly sought af­ter” clin­i­cal di­rec­tor and long­time ad­vo­cate for med­i­cal mar­i­juana who “helped en­sure that its use would be­come le­gal in the state.”

In an­other part of the ap­pli­ca­tion that de­scribed why the com­pany hoped to suc­ceed, it high­lighted his role as state leg­is­la­tor.

“Dr. Morhaim has a strong back­ground in pub­lic ser­vice, hav­ing been elected to the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly in 1994 and ev­ery 4 years since,” the ap­pli­ca­tion said. “There­fore, Dr. Morhaim brings a unique back­ground and per­spec­tive that makes him ide­ally qual­i­fied to serve in this ca­pac­ity.”

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