Legalization, Decriminalization in Maryland

January 23, 2014

As Maryland’s Medical Marijuana Commission works on its regulations, other Maryland lawmakers are pushing for all-out legalization of the drug.

Dels. Curt Anderson and Sheila Hixson and Sen. Jamie Raskin discussed their bill to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in a news conference on Jan. 16. Gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur, a Montgomery County delegate, has also made marijuana legalization a focus of her campaign.

Fifty-three percent of Maryland voters support regulating and taxing marijuana, and 38 percent oppose it, according to a 2013 poll by Public Policy Polling.

If passed, the Marijuana Control Act of 2014 would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants (three of which can be mature) at home, would create a system of regulating and taxing marijuana, would allow for cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp and would direct Maryland’s comptroller to develop regulations and licensing for retailers, marijuana product makers, growers and testing facilities. The legislation also calls for recreational dispensaries in each of Maryland’s counties.

The Maryland Policy Coalition of Maryland, which supports the bill, includes the ACLU of Maryland, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, the Marijuana Policy Project and the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches among others.

“Our experiment with marijuana prohibition has failed,” Raskin said in a statement. “We got ourselves out of alcohol prohibition by regulating and taxing the product, and we should employ the same exit strategy with marijuana. If we can regulate alcohol, we can regulate marijuana.”

Sen. Bobby Zirkin also plans to introduce a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession this session.

“You’re going to see increasing public pressure to get this done,” he said.

Del. Sandy Rosenberg, who co-sponsored the medical marijuana bill that established the Maryland commission, said he supports decriminalization and legalization, in that order.

“I don’t see us legalizing,” he said. “I think what is more likely to happen this session is decriminalization, and I think legalization is something in the future.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake both have expressed their opposition to legalizing marijuana in Maryland.

Colorado and Washington are the only two states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana.

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