In July of 2023, Maryland may join the list of eighteen other states (and Washington D.C.) in legalizing the recreational consumption of cannabis for adults over 21. On November 8, 2022, Maryland voters’ ballot will ask them to vote “yes” or “no” on Question Number 4: “Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1, 2023, in the state of Maryland?”
“Marylanders have long awaited a new approach to cannabis policy,” Olivia Naugle from the Marijuana Policy Project told Marijuana Moment’s Kyle Jaeger. “The passage of these bills is a promising step forward. We applaud the legislature for taking decisive action this session to finally end the era of cannabis prohibition.”
According to a poll conducted by Goucher College between March 1 and March 6, 62% of Maryland adults surveyed over the phone supported the legalization of recreational cannabis. Current Maryland law has permitted medical marijuana use since 2013, and in 2014, the state decriminalized the possession of under ten grams of cannabis.
The Legislative Process
Maryland State House democratic Delegate Luke Clippinger pre-filed House Bill 1, introduced it to the public in January, and the State House and the Senate later approved it. On February 25, the majority of State House Representatives voted in favor of the bill, with 96 votes for “yes” and 34 for “no.” Only one Republican voted yes on House Bill 1. When HB1 went to the State Senate, they made some amendments, and the majority voted in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis—29 to 17. Because of the amendments, it went back to the House, which again approved the amended bill, with 94 in favor and 39 against it. This time, two Democrats voted “no,” along with all but one Republican.
Republican Senator Michael J. Hough told E.A. Breeden of Southern Maryland News that he disagrees with the bill because the outcome rests on the voters’ choices rather than the legislators. “People elect us to make decisions,” Hough said. “It’s a bad precedent.”
Because House Bill 1 was approved by the General Assembly, the question of cannabis legalization will be on the ballot for the voters to decide in November. If the majority of voters vote in favor of legalizing cannabis, the state will create an amendment in the constitution to allow for the recreational use of cannabis beginning in July of 2023.
Not Just a Bill
Maryland lawmakers like Clippinger are planning ahead in anticipation that voters will choose to legalize recreational cannabis use. In a statement to WMAR News Baltimore in January, Clippinger said, “We will get ready for the 2023 legislative session when we can deal with the regulatory aspects, the criminal justice impacts, and a number of other details that go into the legalization of recreational cannabis.”
This preparation comes in the form of House Bill 837, which the General Assembly approved in April. When it landed on his desk, Republican Governor Larry Hogan decided not to sign it into law. Instead, the Bill will go into effect if the voters enact the constitutional amendment by voting “yes” on Question 4.
House Bill 837, if voted into law, would require scientific studies on cannabis use in Maryland. It would also require the creation of a Cannabis Public Health Fund and the Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council. Adults over 21 would be permitted to use cannabis and possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and up to two marijuana plants. Some provisions in the Bill alter the judicial system’s treatment of cannabis-related arrests and convictions.
Before House Bill 837 passed in Maryland, other members of the General Assembly proposed alternate bills related to recreational cannabis. Democratic Senator Jill Carter proposed Senate Bill 692, which would have allowed the possession of four ounces of cannabis and for those with certain charges relating to the use and possession of cannabis in the past to be released with their record cleared.
On March 3, Senator Carter Tweeted, “It is time for Maryland to end the mass incarceration of Black people. #sb692 #cannabisnews”
Democratic Senator Brian J. Feldman advocated for Senate Bill 833, which also would have legalized cannabis, but held a provision that allowed for the possession of up to eight cannabis plants per residence.
The Campaign for Cannabis
Two separate committees emerged supporting Question 4 on the Maryland ballot: M.D. Can ’22, Inc. and Legalize Maryland 2022.
On August 30, M.D. Can ’22 Inc. reported receiving $50,100 in contributions to support the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Maryland. The Trulieve Medical Cannabis Dispensary donated the vast majority of the money.
No matter how much funding the campaign receives, Maryland voters will decide this November whether or not to welcome legal cannabis into their state.
This article was produced by Wealth of Geeks.
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