Legislation Proposed To Legalize Recreational Cannabis In Maryland
January 14, 2021 in Cannabis Law
Maryland Delegate Jazz Lewis (D-24th) has crafted legislation that would legalize and regulate recreational cannabis. The focus of the bill is to permit sales by state-licensed businesses, to expunge past convictions and to establish a social equity program for reinvestment in communities impacted the most by the federal government’s decades-long War on Drugs. The Cannabis Inclusion, Restoration and Rehabilitation Act of 2020, which is still very much a work in progress, will receive its first procedural reading on the first day of the new legislative session on January 13, 2021. It will be presented at both the Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committees. In this article I will explain the specifics of this legislation.
Here is what is contained in the draft bill and which is subject to changes:
- Adults 21 and older may possess up to two ounces of cannabis or 15 grams of concentrate. Possession of other THC products would be limited to a total of 1,500 mg of THC. Exceeding the limit, up to twice the proposed amount, would result in a civil fine of up to $250 or up to 16 hours of community service.
- Adults will be permitted to grow up to six plants in their homes for personal use as long as the plants are not visible from outside their property and inaccessible to minors. It will be legal for adults to share or to gift small amounts of cannabis to other adults as long as there is no payment involved. Smoking cannabis in public is prohibited, carrying a civil fine of up to $50 or up to five hours of community service.
- Landlords have the right to stop their tenants from smoking indoors or for consuming cannabis if it offends other tenants due to its aroma.
- It is still up to the discretion of employers whether or not to terminate employees who are impaired due to their cannabis usage in the workplace.
- Any individual who is currently in prison or under government supervision for simple cannabis possession would be released. Simple cannabis possession offenses would automatically be expunged by October, 2022. Cases of cannabis possession offenses that included other charges would be expunged by October, 2023.
- Private commercial cannabis retail and delivery services will be allowed. While individual townships may prohibit cannabis businesses, they may not ban delivery services.
- In addition to Maryland’s 6% sales tax, there would be an additional 20% tax added to the retail prices of cannabis products. Local townships may add up to an additional 3% tax.
- 27% of the revenue from taxes and fees would fund the Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund “to serve communities impacted by poverty, mass incarceration, or racism via grants to organizations utilizing evidence-proven and evaluated tactics to address these challenges,” according to a summary of the bill.
- A further 20% of the revenue would help fund the four historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Maryland.
- 10% of the revenue would fund no-interest loans to social equity applicants with an additional 3% to be used for technical support for those applicants.
- 7% of the state revenue would fund drug treatment and drug prevention programs
- 2% would fund public education about the risks of using drugs
- 2% would fund cannabis research
- 1% would fund the training of law enforcement officers to help them identify impaired drivers
- 25% of all revenue would go to the state’s general fund
Social Equity Licenses
Social equity applicants will receive the following assistance:
- Exclusive access to transportation and delivery licenses
- Additional points in the retail license application scoring process. There is a cap on the number of licenses that will be granted
- Issuance of other licenses; cultivation facilities, product manufacturers, transportation and delivery, six to nine months before other applicants, excluding existing medical businesses which are required to pay a substantial fee to the Social Equity Start-Up Fund
- Technical assistance for applications
- Financial assistance for start-up costs
Why Is Delegate Lewis Filing This Bill Now?
Delegate Lewis is filing this legislation now because he is confident that the public is in favor of ending prohibition. In addition, research suggests that the War on Drugs is a failed policy that has destroyed entire communities and its impact must be reversed and repaired.
He cited the data that demonstrates that in legal recreational cannabis states there is a reduction in usage by teenagers as a result of disturbances in the black market. Lewis has spoken to law enforcement officers who have stated that they prefer to spend their resources apprehending criminals rather than teens who they want to keep out of the criminal justice system.
He believes it is incumbent upon lawmakers to do a better job of restoring and revitalizing Maryland communities by releasing those incarcerated for simple cannabis possession offenses, expunging their records and facilitating their entry into the cannabis industry. The point of any new policy is to help as many people as possible while causing no harm. Lewis is certain that this bill does exactly that.
You can read the entire bill at this link.
Delegate Jazz Lewis, who represents the 24th Legislative District, Prince George’s County, is a member of the Maryland House Judiciary Committee and serves on the Delegate Scholarship Program. He began his career as a community organizer in Baltimore and is dedicated to criminal justice reform and equal economic opportunity for all. He is serious about restoring impoverished communities and ending prohibition by making diversity and inclusion a priority for the Black and Latino communities, impacted the most by the drug war.
marijuanamoment.net, Maryland Lawmaker Files Marijuana Legalization Bill Ahead of 2021 Session, Ben Adin, December 24, 2020