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Recently, Delegate Darryl Barnes joined former Senator Bobby Zirkin for MSBA’s continuing series: Coffee and Conversations with Legislators. Delegate Barnes has been a member of Maryland’s House of Delegates since January 2015 for the 25th District in Prince George’s County. 

A Washington D.C. native and veteran of both the U.S. Navy and Army, Del. Barnes lives in Prince George’s County, is Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, and serves on the House Ways and Means Committee (which handles issues in the areas of gaming, taxes, and education). In addition to his work as a legislator, Del. Barnes is a successful businessman and entrepreneur with companies in information technology, real estate development, and bottled water, among other things. 

Senator Zirkin kicked off the discussion by touching on sports betting in Maryland and House Bill 940. House Bill 940, which legalized sports betting in the state of Maryland, was signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan in April 2021 and gained national attention for prioritizing minority participation. Del. Barnes explained that with House Bill 940, there was as an effort to remember the lessons learned from the State’s medical cannabis licensing regulation (which resulted in no licenses being awarded to minority applicants in the first round of license awards) and ensure that provisions of the bill focused on minority participation in the emerging sports betting industry in Maryland. Del. Barnes remarked that he was proud of the work being done and noted that the bill also establishes a plan to support (through application assistance and targeted training) minority and women owned businesses looking to participate in the industry. 

Senator Zirkin then turned the conversation to another hot topic, legalization of recreational marijuana use in the state of Maryland. In July 2021, House Speaker Adrienne Jones announced her support for a referendum to legalize marijuana use in the state and also announced the formation of a bipartisan working group on the subject. When asked about the upcoming legislative session and the different legislative tracks being reported, Del. Barnes commented that he is excited to be on the bipartisan House Cannabis Workgroup. The Workgroup is tasked with creating a regulatory framework for recreational marijuana use in the state of Maryland. In addition to working on the details of implementation, Del. Barnes acknowledged that the Workgroup would focus on equity and inclusion in the bill and would look to gather input from subject matter experts throughout the drafting process. 

On the topic of police reform and accountability, both Senator Zirkin and Del. Barnes reflected on the magnitude of passing policing reforms in light of the police reform bill package that passed in April 2021. Del. Barnes went on to explain that despite the recent measures that were passed, there continues to be a need for robust conversations around police reform in order to move the state of Maryland forward. He also mentioned efforts in the Legislative Black Caucus that focus on issues related to the state’s judiciary system and noted that in October, the Legislative Black Caucus plans to hold a reception where both Democratic and Republican candidates for governor will have an opportunity to articulate their Black agenda. 

In his closing remarks, Del. Barnes expressed his interest in meeting with various stakeholders, including the Maryland State Bar Association, to help shape key pieces of legislation that, in his view, would serve to move the state of Maryland forward. 

View the entire conversation on MSBA’s YouTube Channel, here.