Del. Dan Morhaim talks to reporters after the Maryland House of Delegates voted 138-0 to reprimand him on Friday, March 3, 2017. The legislature's ethics panel found that he used his position as a legislator to advocate for changes to medical marijuana regulations and procedures for awarding licenses that could have resulted in the gain of a company that employed him. (Brian Witte, Associated Press)

Dan Morhaim, who helped usher medical marijuana into Maryland then ran into controversy, is retiring

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland Del. Dan Morhaim will not seek another term in the General Assembly, ending a 24-year run in which he championed legislation for health and environmental causes, including helping to launch the state’s medical marijuana program, and recently made headlines for his ties to that industry, which resulted in a political conflict of interest.

Morhaim, a Democrat from Baltimore County who would be 70 at the start of next year’s legislative session, said Monday that he and his wife decided four years ago that he would not seek another term. He said his major accomplishments included crafting Maryland’s medical marijuana program, expanding addiction treatment, and creating a statewide organ donation system and electronics recycling program.

An emergency room physician, Morhaim said he will continue practicing medicine after leaving office.

“I’m committed to social and policy change,” Morhaim said. “It’s been 24 years of doing that in the House of Delegates. There are lots of ways to do that in addition to being a state legislator.”

Morhaim led the charge for Maryland’s medical cannabis program, which debuted in December after nearly five years of delays.

He first introduced medical marijuana legislation in 2003, long before he forged business ties with the industry as a paid consultant to a prospective dispensary – a relationship he did not publicly disclose until a Washington Post story in 2016.

Morhaim was subsequently removed from the health committee overseeing medical marijuana legislation and investigated by the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, which concluded he had violated the principles of state ethics laws by using his influence to engage with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission and push policies that could have benefited the dispensary, Doctor’s Orders.

Morhaim was reprimanded by the House of Delegates and said he would end his relationships with the dispensary and cannabis regulators and stop working on medical marijuana legislation.

When asked about the launch of the medical marijuana program, Morhaim said it had “been a long time coming” and that he was always motivated by thousands of patients who suffered without safe access to the drug.

He declined to comment further, saying he had his “own perspective, and someday I’ll be happy to share, but not now.”

In a Facebook statement, Morhaim wrote that in his first term, the family of a young girl born with a cleft lip and palate asked him to introduce legislation that eventually passed and required health insurance companies to pay for surgical repairs of that condition. He also oversaw bills supporting colon cancer screenings and improving end-of-life care by promoting advance directives.

“So much of what I was seeing in the emergency room was from social issues,” Morhaim said. “For most of the patients I was seeing, there was often a social antecedent to them being in the emergency room.”

Morhaim also rallied around environmental causes, introducing legislation to protect Maryland’s coastal bays from overdevelopment and creating a statewide electronics recycling system. His legislation also required green building construction, which reduced utility expenses and pollution.