Maryland Legislators to Consider the Legalization and Regulation of Recreational Cannabis

Maryland lawmakers have proposed a pair of bills aimed at the legalization and regulation of recreational cannabis use.

House Bill 911 — a.k.a. the Marijuana Control and Revenue Act of 2015 — was introduced by State Delegate Curt Anderson and was co-sponsored by 30 other members of the Maryland House of Representatives, all Democrats. Its companion bill, Senate Bill 531, was introduced by Senator Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery) and co-sponsored by nine fellow Democrats in the Maryland Senate. Together, these bills establish Maryland as a new leader in the legislative push toward serious marijuana policy reform.

If passed, the new law would call for the Maryland Comptroller to establish a licensing process and lay out a system of regulations for cultivation, processing, and distribution of cannabis products.

Anderson attempted similar legislation in 2013, which ultimately failed. “The bill would take marijuana out of the realm of a criminal enterprise and make it so that folks can actually buy it in recreational ways,” Anderson said last year. “This issue is so important, I think, to folks in my community in terms of the arrest of young African-American males. They get records, they can’t get jobs, they can’t get into some schools.”

The bill would establish an oversight board to monitor the industry and make recommendations to lawmakers as the program is unveiled. As per the new law, marijuana cultivation and distribution sites would not be allowed within 1,000 feet of schools, and local authorities can add further restrictions of their own. Using cannabis in public will remain illegal.

Sara Love, public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, described the legislation in a statement:

“The Marijuana Control and Revenue Act is the next step on the road to saner drug policy in Maryland. For too long, tens of thousands of Marylanders, disproportionately black Marylanders, have faced life-altering criminal penalties simply for possessing a substance most voters believe should be legalized. Now, our state has the opportunity to move beyond the tragic costs of the counterproductive ‘war on drugs’ and toward increased revenue that can be used to support policies that strengthen communities.”

Under current Maryland laws, marijuana has been decriminalized. First offenders face a $100 ticket, second offenders up to $250, and any more marijuana infractions can warrant up to $500 in fines.


Photo Credit: Kathleen Tyler Conklin

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