A pair of Maryland cannabis bills are being introduced this week in Annapolis. One of the bills will look at legalizing marijuana for recreational use for adults over 21 and the other will look at how it will be taxed. The bill is modeled after Colorado’s marijuana laws, taking into account and learning from the mistakes and solutions already experienced over the last few years of legalization. Maryland residents would be allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to 6 plants so long as only 3 plants are mature at any given time. Marijuana tax revenue would be divided up to support the residents of Maryland with 50 percent going to community school programs, 25 percent to fund drug treatment, 15 percent for workforce development programs and 10 percent towards stopping impaired driving.
The Protection of Public Education
Delegate Mary Washington said, “By introducing a new revenue stream, we are protecting one of our priorities, our greatest priority, which is public education, and specifically protecting and enhancing potentially the educational experiences of children in the communities that are disproportionately impacted.” This sentiment is echoed amongst other Maryland lawmakers with Senator Richard Madaleno emphasizing that it would go towards helping those communities who have been negatively affected by the “failed war on crime.”
Fighting Racism with Maryland Cannabis Legalization
Part of the failure is racial, as African-American residents of Maryland are almost 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white residents, even though the usage rates are the same. Those convicted and imprisoned for the offense experience extreme financial hardship from legal fees, the cost of fines and loss of employment. Once released, the criminal record impacts the person’s ability to receive education, employment and housing opportunities and families are devastated by the impact. On top of this, it costs the state an enormous amount of money and resources to execute these laws that ultimately go towards banning something that is safer to consume than alcohol.
The Majority of Marylanders Want Legal Cannabis
According to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, 61 percent of Maryland residents support legalization. Should legislature not move forward towards legalizing the plant, then lawmakers are planning to present the option to the people through a referendum in 2018.
How Legalization in Maryland Would Work
As it stands now, the comptroller’s office would be in charge of licensing and regulations for the Maryland cannabis industry. There would need to be a restricted number of stores, cultivators, manufacturers and testers that would need to be licensed in order to get the infrastructure in place for the industry. Cultivators would pay an excise tax of $30 per ounce and 9 percent sales tax would be added to retail sales of Maryland cannabis, which is the same amount of tax applied to alcohol in the state.
Medical marijuana was legalized in Maryland in 2013 and small amounts were decriminalized in 2014. Yet somehow over the past couple of years, all bills for legalizing recreational marijuana have been blocked. Now as more and more states decide to legalize the plant, it is looking likely to be legalized in Maryland, whether by legislature or a public vote.