ANNAPOLIS, Md. — State lawmakers who are introducing bills this week to put the issue of whether to tax and regulate marijuana for adult use on the 2018 ballot will hold a news conference in support of the legislation on Wednesday. Sponsors will discuss the details of the legislatively referred constitutional amendment at 9 a.m. ET in Room 142 of the Lowe House of Delegates Office Building. Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.) will also be speaking at the event; he has more than 30 years of experience in Maryland law enforcement and is executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.
If approved by 60% of both chambers of the Maryland Legislature, the bill would place a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot that would make possession and home cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis legal for adults 21 years of age and older and require the state to establish regulations and taxation for a legal cannabis market. The bill to refer the issue to the voters could not be vetoed by the governor.
The amendment would allow adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and up to five grams of concentrated cannabis and to cultivate up to three mature and three immature plants at home. It would direct the General Assembly to pass legislation in 2019 to implement the amendment and direct the comptroller to regulate the production, processing, testing, and sale of cannabis. The regulations would be required to ensure diversity in cannabis business licensees, protect consumers through tracking, testing, and labeling of cannabis products, and allow local governments to control the number of cannabis businesses in their jurisdictions and determine whether to allow limited on-site social consumption. It would remain illegal to consume cannabis in public or drive under the influence.
Sixty-four percent of likely Maryland voters support making cannabis legal for adults, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland Poll conducted in September 2016.
“Maryland voters want to regulate cannabis, but they can’t make their voices heard unless my fellow lawmakers give them the opportunity,” said Del. David Moon, the primary sponsor of the legislation in the House of Delegates. “Our constituents are ready for a grown-up conversation about cannabis policy. We need to focus on how to best implement the will of the people and stop allowing criminals to control the cannabis market.”
Nine states and the District of Columbia have made cannabis possession legal for adults, and eight of those states regulate and tax cannabis similarly to alcohol. Bills to make cannabis legal are expected to be introduced in more than a dozen states this year, including Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Michigan voters will likely be able to support a similar initiative on the November 2018 ballot.
“African Americans are far more likely to be the subject of marijuana enforcement than other Marylanders,” said Sen. William C. Smith, the primary sponsor in the Senate. “Decriminalization reduces the number of Marylanders who are branded criminals somewhat, but it does nothing to stop the public safety issues that arise when a lucrative market is driven underground. We need to put cannabis sales behind the counter and let adults make their own decisions about using a substance that is safer than alcohol. I am confident the people of this state will agree if given the chance.”
“Gangs are not, as some would have us believe, the root of a public safety problem — they are a symptom,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership. “We know that ending alcohol prohibition nationwide decimated the gangs who controlled the underground liquor industry, and we must connect the same dots between cannabis prohibition and today’s gang activity. Regulating, taxing, and controlling cannabis in Maryland will put the cannabis market into the capable hands of licensed, inspected businesses who pay taxes and have the community’s best interests at heart.”