After filing legislation for the legalization of adult-use cannabis last February 6, 2019 in both the House and Senate, Maryland lawmakers have put the brakes on moving forward until 2020. They have chosen to form a bipartisan study group to assess the best way to legalize cannabis; either through state law or through referendum. According to their time table, the group will complete their evaluation by the end of December, 2019 with proposals to develop bills for the legislative session in 2020.
The agenda for the group of lawmakers includes the following issues:
- Cannabis licensing and taxing guidelines
- The effect legalization will have on public health
- The effect legalization will have on the criminal justice system
- Best practices for advancing participation in the cannabis industry by woman-owned, minority-owned and mom and pop type businesses
- The most pressing decision is whether legislators should legalize adult-use cannabis by passing legislation or by allowing voters to decide by referendum on the ballot in 2020.
The group consists of co-chairs State Senator Bobby Zirkin, (D-Dist11) who is Chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and House of Delegates Kathleen Dumais, (D-Dist15) who is House majority leader.
The other members are:
Democratic delegates Jay Walker, Vanessa Atterbeary, Eric Bromwell, David Moon, Sandy Rosenberg and Nick Mosby and Democratic senators Bill Ferguson, Brian Feldman, Jill P Carter, Melony Griffith, Douglas J.J. Pers and Jeff Waldstreicher
Republican delegates Nic Kipke and Kathy Szeliga and Republican senators Stephen Hershey and Chris West
House Speaker Michael Busch wants to ensure that legislators are fully prepared to understand all the intricacies of the legalization process if they decide to move forward. He has previously voiced his support of the legalization of adult-use cannabis. He sees it as inevitable not only in Maryland but across the entire country. He has referred to cannabis legalization as “the future” and he feels it is in the interest of the state to support it. He is in favor of investing all the tax revenue in education.
Governor Larry Hogan (R) until just recently has avoided weighing in on the idea of full legalization. Although he agrees that it is worth considering, he feels it is premature to pass legislation now. He cited the slow and problematic roll-out of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Program as a rationale for delaying recreational legalization.
Here is the information on the bills that were already filed:
House Bill 0656 Cannabis – Legalization, Taxation and Regulation
Sponsored by Delegate Eric Luedike
Here are the main points:
- Adults 21 and up may possess, consume, purchase and grow cannabis
- Possession limit is 1 oz flower and/or 5 grams of concentrate
- Each household is limited to growing 4 cannabis plants
- Establishment of a Cannabis Regulation Division within the Office of the Comptroller
Senate Bill 80771 Cannabis – Legalization, Taxation and Regulation
Sponsored by Senator Will Smith Jr
Senator Smith is an advocate of cannabis legalization. He and a group of Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation for legalization in 2017 which failed. Under his new plan which deals with not only taxation but restorative justice, here are the main points:
- Cannabis will be taxed at 6%
- Some of the revenue will be used for substance abuse treatment, for impaired driving prevention, and for education and subsidies for those in minority communities to gain entry into the cannabis industry. Minority owners have been locked out of opening dispensaries in many of the states with medical cannabis programs.
- Some of the revenue will be used for the immediate expungement of prior cannabis possession and cultivation convictions. Those with other cannabis related convictions, including sales, will be entitled to petition the courts to clear their record.
Here is the Constitutional Amendment which was already drafted should lawmakers decide to use this avenue for legalization:
HB0632 Constitutional Amendment Cannabis – Use, Possession, Cultivation and Sale
Sponsored by Delegate David Moon (D)
The amendment allows for possession of 1 oz, cultivation of 6 plants and the sharing of cannabis. It also addresses employment policies and certain driving conduct.
In response to the filing of cannabis legalization legislation in the Maryland General Assembly, cannabis activists such as Olivia Naugle, of the Marijuana Policy Project, heralded the move as a matter of improving public health and safety. It would bring cannabis production and sales out of the shadows of criminal enterprises so that it can be licensed and taxed like any other legitimate business. Legalization would generate significant and much needed tax revenue for the state of Maryland.
Source: marijuanamoment.net, Maryland Lawmakers Introduce Marijuana Legalization Bills, Kyle Jaeger, February 6, 2019
baltimoresun.com, Maryland Lawmakers To Study Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in 2020 with State Law or Referendum, Pamela Wood, Feb 19, 2019