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Governor signs Maryland bills on abortion protection, cannabis reform, gender-affirming treatment into law

Governor signs Maryland bills on abortion protection, cannabis reform, gender-affirming treatment in
Governor signs Maryland bills on abortion protection, cannabis reform, gender-affirming treatment in 02:10

BALTIMORE - Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed six bills into law Wednesday in Annapolis.

Two of those bills are aimed at protecting gender-affirming treatment and rights to abortions.

Abortion rights will be on the ballot next year as Marylanders decide on whether to enshrine the right in the state's constitution.

"Today is about health care," Maryland Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said. "Today is about freedom."

Gov. Moore and others signed into law the Right to Reproductive Freedom Act bill to send the right to an abortion to Maryland voters.

"Maryland can, and will, lead on this issue of abortion," Gov. Moore said. "I want to say this to all women who are wondering what will happen who are worried about their future, please hear me loud and clear, Maryland will always be a safe haven for abortion access and abortion rights."


One new law is designed to protect patients and providers from criminal, civil and administrative penalties relating to abortion bans or restrictions in other states. 

The governor also signed a separate data-privacy bill to protect medical and insurance records on reproductive health in electronic health information exchanges that can be shared quickly and widely across state lines. 

Moore signed another bill to ensure public colleges and universities in Maryland have a plan for student access near campuses to birth control, including emergency contraception and abortion pills.

In June 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade which now gives states its own determination to enact on stricter abortion laws.

"We are living in a time when the Supreme Court is actively working to take Americans' rights away," Gov. Moore said.

Karen Nelson, the President of Planned Parenthood of Maryland said Maryland has already become a safe haven for abortion care as other states are passing more prohibitive laws.

"Twenty six states had patients visit us here in Maryland because they could not get health care easily in their own state," Nelson said.


The Trans Health Equity Act expands the number of procedures relating to gender-affirming care that are covered by the state's Medicaid program. 

Starting Jan. 1, Medicaid must provide coverage for gender-affirming treatment, meaning any medically necessary treatment consistent with current clinical standards of care prescribed by a licensed health care provider for the treatment of a condition related to the individual's gender identity.

"In our state, no one should ever have to justify their humanity," Gov. Moore said. "That's what the Trans Health Equity Act is all about and it is the legislation that we need. That's what this bill is about."

Laws targeting gender-affirming care for minors have exploded around the country.

Fifteen states now have bans in place. Seventeen more are currently considering a ban.

"We didn't take on controversial topics," Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson said. "We made bold decisions on topics that needed to be addressed."


The governor signed legislation that creates licensing and tax rates to open a recreational marijuana market on July 1. 

In November, voters approved a constitutional amendment with 67% of the vote to enable adults ages 21 and older to be able to legally possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis. 

Existing medical cannabis dispensaries will be able to have dual licenses to sell recreational marijuana. There will be additional licenses available with priority given to minority owners in communities that have been negatively affected by past marijuana laws. The tax rate will be 9%.

On Monday, the Moore administration announced that the governor has put his assets, which included nearly $1.2 million of stock in a cannabis company, into a blind trust designed to prevent a conflict of interest. The State Ethics Commission approved the transfer of Moore's list of holdings into a blind trust managed by Brown Investment Advisory & Trust Company last week.

"This will ensure the rollout of recreational cannabis in our state drives opportunity in an equitable way," Gov. Moore said. "The criminalization of marijuana harmed low-income communities and communities of color in a profound way.

"We want to make sure the legalization of marijuana lifts those communities now in a profound way."


Moore signed two measures to expand access to affordable health insurance. One of them will automatically enroll recipients of SNAP benefits into Medicaid who are eligible but not yet enrolled. The law is designed to reduce paperwork and help an estimated 65,000 uninsured Marylanders get the health coverage.

Another new law will extend a pilot program for another two years, providing state subsidies to bring down the cost of health insurance for young adults ages 18-34.


The governor also signed a package of mental health measures that focus on getting people help earlier, preferably in community and primary care settings, before they experience a mental health crisis requiring costly trips to the emergency room or in-patient care. One measure sets aside funding in 2025 to pay for a 988 suicide and crisis prevention hotline.

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