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Maryland Wants a Cannabis Legalization Do-Over


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Maryland Legislators have filed a referendum. A deeper look into this measure shows that it seeks to modify the existing cannabis legislation in the state by 2022.

Del. Luke Clippinger, a competent and well-versed lawmaker in Maryland, pre-filed this bill ahead of the first 2022 session slated to hold on January 12. The bill would include marijuana legalization on the ballots in the midterm elections. The bill’s author, Del. Luke Clippinger, currently serves as the chairman of a cannabis workshop studying the language of the bill. He also acts as the head of the Judiciary Committee in the state.


Amending Maryland’s Cannabis Laws

The text was uploaded last Wednesday. The post stated that the bill seeks to add an amendment to the existing cannabis legislation through the ballots. Indications point that the legislation, titled “House Bill 1,” will be a priority once the session begins.

The House Speaker, Adrienne Jones, has been putting plans in place to ensure the state’s lawmakers support the proposed reforms. He recently announced that she wants Congress to pass the bill as soon as possible. He also added that a new cannabis workgroup would be established by Summer to look into other problems in the cannabis sector and its laws. He explicitly stated that Congress would pass legislation in the first half of the year to approve the legalization of cannabis to voters.

Once this legislation is passed, the next phase will be decided by registered voters. The measure will be included in the ballot for voters to decide whether or not they are in support of the legalization of recreational cannabis in Maryland. If the November ballot passes, the Lawmakers will begin establishing regulations to guide the use, sales, possession, distribution, and taxation of adult-use cannabis within the state of Maryland. If the ballot fails, then proceedings will begin afresh to either pass the measure through congress or wait for the 2024 general elections.


A Push For Cannabis Reforms

The first time this bill was mentioned was in August. The House Cannabis Referendum made inquiries into the progress of the legalization workshop and the outcome of the meetings that had been held. Then, members were looking into a series of licensing Cannabis-related businesses and how Cannabis-related offenses were being expunged. Other issues like traffic laws related to marijuana, tax policies as well as traffic laws related to cannabis were also discussed.

It can be recalled that in July, Senate President Bill Ferguson stated that the state is more than due for cannabis reform. However, he failed to back his words up by immediately embracing the referendum process. Instead, he opted to support a bill that aims to do away with cannabis prohibition before the elections in November. Throughout the 2021 sessions, cannabis reform measures failed to reach the voting stage.


The Buildup to This Bill

In March, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to discuss the legalization bill, sponsored by the majority leader, Ferguson, and other notable chairs in the house. This hearing was held a few weeks after the House Judiciary Committee had a hearing on another cannabis proposal.

In October, the cannabis workgroup held another meeting which federal drug officials attended. At this meeting, the lawmakers were advised on issues related to the legislation and how the referendum could be successful.


The Next Steps For Cannabis Reforms In Maryland

As much as the majority of Maryland residents and advocates have been pushing for marijuana reforms, the bill has been challenged by at least two issues.

The first part of this measure which is facing issues, is that if the legislation is passed, the law’s implementation would still take about eight months to be effected. This means that simple possession of the drug would not start earlier than July 1, 2023. This is at a slower pace compared to other states that already have cannabis reforms. An excellent example of this is New York. Low-level possession in New York was automatically approved immediately the reform bill was signed into law.

Another part of the measure being challenged is its lack of a provision that would require the legislature to authorize the personal cultivation of cannabis by Maryland residents. This is facing push backs because this is a vital requirement which was noted in a draft referendum provided by activists. The advocates had provided this draft, hoping that the lawmakers would model the bill after it.

In an interview, Karen O’ Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, noted that reform advocates are impressed with the way the lawmakers have prioritized cannabis legalization; she also added that the group is grateful that the measures would be approved in early-2022. She, however, stated that this does not excuse the group’s disappointment at the language in the pre-filed house referendum. She claims that the referendum would only stoke the fires of the devastating war on cannabis till November, even after voters legalized the drug.

On behalf of the group, she requested that the legislators have a rethink on the pre-filed measure and review the proposal to allow home cultivation and possession to begin as soon as the law is signed. In addition to this request, she asked that regardless of the legislature passed to implement cannabis legislation; racial justice must be considered. This would allow for a better and hopeful transition into a legal and safe industry.


Bottom Line

According to a Goucher College survey, about 67% of Marylanders support cannabis reforms. Only 28% are opposed to the idea. This means that the majority are in favor of the policy change. Lawmakers and advocates have put in work this last year to ensure a cannabis reform bill gets to Governor Larry Hogan’s desk. In the past weeks, legislators have tried to balance the differences between the proposed cannabis reform bills from the house and Senate.

As it stands, Gov. Hogan has not shown any indication that he is opposed to the idea of cannabis decriminalization and use.  This is good for the proposed changes.






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