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Marijuana Legalization in MD Up to Voters This November


Thursday, April 7, 2022   

Groups are raising awareness about a ballot initiative in Maryland to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis.

The state House and Senate voted last week to pass House Bill 1, which put a constitutional amendment for adult-use cannabis on the November ballot.

They also passed House Bill 837, outlining policies if voters approve the measure, including legalizing possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana and up to two marijuana plants for personal use.

Olivia Naugle, senior policy analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, noted it also would expunge marijuana convictions and allow those in prison for it to file for resentencing.

"Cannabis prohibition is a failed policy, and I think voters recognize that," Naugle asserted. "Polling has consistently shown that a majority of Marylanders support legalizing cannabis for adults. So I'm really happy that they're going to finally have their voices heard on the ballot in November."

Opponents argued marijuana is a dangerous drug which should not be encouraged, although studies have shown it can be regulated safely, and the latest polling from Goucher College showed more than 60% of Marylanders support legalization.

Naugle pointed out House Bill 837 does not set up a regulatory framework for an adult-use cannabis industry in the state. She explained it would have to be taken up in the next legislative session.

Naugle emphasized under Maryland's current cannabis laws, every year thousands of residents -- disproportionately Black residents -- are arrested and receive a criminal conviction for cannabis possession.

She added the expungement process is key as well for people who have previous convictions.

"We know a criminal record can make it difficult to obtain housing, employment and other public benefits," Naugle observed. "So cannabis policy reform, it'll begin to reduce criminalization for cannabis, and all of these collateral consequences that come with a criminal conviction."

If the ballot initiative passes in November, Maryland will join 18 states plus Washington D.C. with recreationally legal cannabis. In 2020, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota all approved ballot measures to legalize marijuana, although South Dakota's policy has been challenged in court.

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