Maryland voters should have the final say on whether or not the state should legalize recreational cannabis use for adults.
Earlier this month, lawmakers passed “a pair of bills setting a November referendum on whether the state should legalize the possession, personal use, and home cultivation of small amounts of marijuana”. the website DCist reported.
The proposal before voters in Maryland is one that a growing number of states have addressed over the past decade. It would allow adults aged 21 and over “to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis, with anything between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces subject to a civil fine of $250 and anything that exceeds 2.5 ounces is subject to a charge of possession with intent to distribute”. according to DCist.
And it would establish a social justice framework for those previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses “to seek expungement from their records and seek immediate release if incarcerated,” the website said.
However, the bill would not establish a regulatory system for the retail sale of recreational cannabis.
The legislation cleared another major hurdle last week when Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, chose not to sign the bills into law.
This means that if voters approve the referendum in November, the new law will go into effect without the governor’s signature.
Hogan has been particularly wary on the issue of cannabis legalization. As the Washington Post reported earlier this month, “Hogan has never taken a public stance” on the issue of recreational pot, nor has he “said how he would vote in the November referendum that would legalize cannabis.”
Speak Baltimore Sun, Hogan has “previously said he would prefer a referendum to lawmakers acting directly.”
While some lawmakers had doubts about the final proposal that was approved by the legislature, advocacy groups celebrated the prospect of bringing legalization to Maryland.
“Marylanders have long awaited a new approach to cannabis policy, and the passage of these bills is a promising step forward. We applaud the Legislature for taking decisive action this session to finally end the cannabis policy. era of cannabis prohibition, a policy both long overdue and supported by a majority of voters. We look forward to working with Maryland lawmakers on this issue moving forward,” said Olivia Naugle. , senior policy analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project, as quoted by DCist.
There are good reasons for those same supporters to be optimistic about the chances of the referendum in November.
A survey published last month found that 62% of voters in Maryland supported legalizing recreational cannabis use, while only 34% opposed ending prohibition.
Notably, Goucher College’s findings that legalization is far better in the solidly blue state than the current White House-resident Democrat, President Joe Biden, who won Maryland in the 2020 election by more than 30 points on Donald Trump.
According to the poll, only 48% of Maryland voters said they approved of the job Biden is doing as president, with 47% saying they disapproved.
Those numbers may underscore the political benefit of legalization, especially for a struggling Democratic party entering this year’s midterm elections.
The party took power in early 2021 amid a wave of hope among legalization advocates that federal prohibition might finally be coming to an end.
Those hopes were bolstered earlier this month, when Democrats in the House of Representatives passed a bill declassify cannabis at the federal level.
The legislation is now moving through the Democratic-controlled Senate, where leaders have said they hope to produce their own version of a bill by the end of this month.
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