It seems that much of the northeastern United States is starting to look at moving towards legalizing cannabis, as opposed to continuing to push the criminalization created by prohibition. The next state on that list is Maryland, where a group of bipartisan lawmakers will come together to study the issues related to (potentially) legalizing cannabis within the state. The group will be required to report their findings by December 31st, 2019 for the 2020 legislative session.
“With our sister states moving to legalization, it is time for the General Assembly to take an in-depth look at this issue,” Miller said.
While this means that there will likely not be any real proposals to make changes to cannabis laws this year, the state is at least taking the consideration seriously. The goal is to look closely at what has worked for other states and what hasn’t to ensure that their first attempt at a bill or voter referendum is as comprehensive as possible.
“Over the past several years, we have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, implemented a medical marijuana program and reduced jail sentences for nonviolent drug offenders,” Busch said. “With many states exploring legalizing marijuana use, President Miller and I want to make sure legislators understand all of the complexities of legalization and are prepared if, indeed, we move forward.”
The committee co-chairs for this ‘Cannabis Workgroup’ are Senator Bobby Zirkin, chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and House Majority Leader Kathleen Dumais. Other members of the group will include Jay Walker, Vanessa Atterbeary, Eric Bromwell, David Moon, Sandy Rosenberg, Nick Mosby, Nic Kipke, Kathy Szeliga, Bill Ferguson, Brian Feldman, Jill P. Carter, Melony Griffith, Douglas J.J. Peters, Jeff Waldstreicher, Stephan Hershey and Chris West.
It’s only been two years since Maryland’s medical marijuana program went into full effect – but legalizing adult use and possession is becoming a serious consideration for many states looking to reduce incarceration rates and bring in new streams of revenue. The workgroup will examine the most common concerns – thing like licensing, regulating and overseeing the cultivation, production and sale of the plant and whether to allow home growing or not. They will also look at more complex issues, such as how to ensure small businesses are included, as well as women-owned and minority-owned business participation.
Though the potential of a cannabis legalization bill or referendum in Maryland has clearly grown exponentially, chances are there won’t be any real action taken on the legislative end until the workgroup has submitted their findings. However, by taking their time, doing the research beforehand and looking at states with successful cannabis reform, they will be able to better ensure a smooth transition to a fully legal market.