Maryland: Announces Measures to Legalize Recreational Marijuana for Adults

AP
Washington Hispanic:

Lawmakers on Thursday introduced a measure to legalize recreational marijuana for adults that supporters say would put the state on a path toward a fair cannabis industry, if approved by voters in November.

The bill would create an implementation plan based on the findings of the House Cannabis Referendum Task Force, House Speaker Adrienne Jones announced in a press release.

“While I strongly believe that voters should decide this issue, it is the General Assembly that is charged with making sure that we have a legally defensible, equity-driven plan should they choose legalization,” said Jones, a Democrat from New York County. Baltimore.

The bill aims to address criminal justice and public health issues, while building a foundation for social equity in the industry, the speaker’s office said.

“Maryland residents deserve to have their voices heard at the ballot box on the issue of legalization, but we cannot move forward without an implementation plan that addresses our immediate priorities,” said Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Judiciary Committee. of the House of Representatives. “With this legislation, we will be prepared with a comprehensive policy that creates the best and most equitable path to legal recreational cannabis, should the voters say yes.”

The bill would allow Maryland residents to possess up to 1.5 ounces of recreational cannabis without penalty. Possession of more than 1.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis would be reduced to a civil offense instead of a misdemeanor.

The legislation would also automatically expunge the conviction of anyone previously convicted of simple possession of marijuana if it was the only charge in the case. Additionally, anyone currently being held in a state prison or local jail for a cannabis conviction would be resentenced to end their term of incarceration.

The bill also calls for a study to collect data on usage patterns, impaired driving incidents, and the impact cannabis use has on public health.

A gap study would be conducted to create a more equitable regulatory system and identify barriers to entry into the industry. The measure would also create a Small, Minority-Owned and Women-Owned Cannabis Business Assistance Fund to help people disproportionately affected by marijuana laws.

The Maryland Senate has also been working on an approach to legalizing marijuana.

Sen. Will Smith, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the chamber has been working for months to develop an implementation framework.

“We’re not going to send this to a referendum without having a clear idea of ​​what things look like in terms of the actual regulatory framework,” said Smith, a Montgomery County Democrat. “The regulatory framework has to be analyzed before sending it to the voters.”