ANNAPOLIS, MD — Lawmakers in Maryland will introduce legislation early in 2014 to legalize the possession, cultivation, and retail sale of marijuana to adults, and has bi-partisan support in the Senate.
The proposed bill would remove all criminal and civil penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and allow the personal cultivation of up to 6 marijuana plants by those over the age of 21. The bill would also create a system of retail marijuana stores, cultivation facilities, and marijuana product manufacturers.
Lawmakers in Maryland failed to act on a similar proposal last year.
The bill is expected to be sponsored by Republican Senator Allan Kittleman and Democrat Senator Jamie Raskin.
While the bill has growing support among lawmakers in Maryland, Governor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, said earlier this year that he is opposed to marijuana legalization in the state, which could slow the bill’s progress.
“I’ve seen what drug addiction has done to the people of our state and the people of our city,” O’Malley said during an interview with WEAA 88.9 FM. O’Malley, who is term-limited and can not seek reelection, gained political prominence as the former tough-on-crime mayor of Baltimore being elected governor.
In the House, Delegate Heather Mizeur is in favor of legalizing marijuana in Maryland. Mizeur is currently seeking the Democratic nomination to replace Governor O’Malley in November.
“A majority of Marylanders and Americans support the legalization of marijuana because of its impact on public safety and its ability to generate badly needed revenue for critical state priorities,” says Mizeur. “Legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana similar to the way we regulate alcohol will provide our state with increased revenue, enhance public safety, and improve environmental and economic outcomes.”
According to a 2013 ACLU report, Maryland is home to one of the highest rates of marijuana possession arrests of any state in the country. Maryland arrests over 23,000 individuals for simple marijuana possession every year, at the cost over of 100 million dollars.
The report also found that despite only constituting 30% of the state’s population and having similar use rates to their white counterparts, African Americans account for 58% of the state’s marijuana possession arrests.
Polling data, commissioned by the ACLU in 2013, found that 53 percent of Maryland voters support making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol. Only 38 percent said they were opposed to this change.
Lawmakers did, however, pass a bill to allow academic research studies of medical marijuana, but stopped short of legalizing medical marijuana in the state.