In the state of Maryland, lawmakers are finally starting to come to the conclusion that something needs to be done when it comes to cannabis reform – the issue simply isn’t going to go away. There are two ways that lawmakers in Maryland can go about legalizing cannabis: they can pass a bill, that would then have to be signed into law by the governor, or they can take a vote on putting up a referendum to have voters pass an amendment in the next election to be held – which would be 2018, in this case.
“Now is the time to join other states and move toward a sensible system of regulation and taxation,” said Sen. Richard Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat and sponsor of the two Senate bills.
A group of lawmakers have sponsored a couple of bills that aim to tax and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and older. It would make possession, consumption and home cultivation of cannabis perfectly legal – and it would create a taxed and regulated market for commercial growth and sale of the plant. They would tax sales first at the wholesale level, with a flat tax of $30 per ounce, then it would be taxed at the register with a 9% sales tax (the same as alcohol in the state of Maryland).
“It’s a matter of when,” said Del. David Moon, a Montgomery County Democrat who is leading the referendum effort. “It’s become very clear that this is no longer a fringe issue. It’s totally mainstream.”
In order for these bills to make it to the governor they would have to receive a majority of the vote – however there are many lawmakers who are weary of legalizing cannabis. Oddly enough, some of those same weary lawmakers may be okay with giving the decision to the voters via a constitutional amendment referendum on the ballot. In order for them to put the referendum on the ballot they would need three fifths of the vote, more than the simple majority required to pass a bill.
“But I think it’s an open question: Are there lawmakers in Maryland who are willing to vote to put this to a vote but unwilling to support it as a direct change that we implement through state law, and I don’t know the answer to this question, but I imagine we’ll find out more in the coming weeks,” Moon said.
Either way, it’s starting to look good for the state of Maryland as far as legalization goes. If they manage to get enough support for either the bills to pass or for the amendment to be put on the ballot, the chances are pretty good that legalization is in their future. Support for reform has been growing significantly around the country, and by more than 10% in 2 years in Maryland alone. One way or another, lawmakers were right when they said it’s a matter of time before legalization happens, not a matter of whether or not it is going to happen.