Lawmakers in Maryland may give voters the opportunity to legalize cannabis in this year’s fall election. In Maryland, a ballot referendum can only be introduced by lawmakers, and this wouldn’t be their first attempt at putting a referendum for a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis on the ballot. Last year, a similar attempt was made but failed to pass. Voters and activists hope that now that more states have legalized – including Vermont where lawmakers made the call themselves – there may be a better chance that voters will get to be heard this year.
“The public is actually well ahead of some lawmakers on this issue,” Kate Bell, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, said to CBS affiliate WJZ. “So far, all but one of the states that have legalized marijuana have done so through ballot initiative.”
The amendment is currently being reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee, where it will be decided whether it will advance or not. If the committee chooses to see it move forward, then each chamber of the General Assembly will need to approve the amendment with a 60 percent majority to land it on the ballot this year. Luckily, if approved by the General Assembly, there will be no opportunity for Governor Larry Hogan to veto the bill, as it will be up to voters what happens from there.
If the constitutional amendment makes it from the General Assembly to the ballot, there is a good chance it will pass. If passed, the amendment would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis by any adult 21 or older – as well as establish a regulated and taxed retail market, similar to what is operating in other legal states.
“It certainly is an uphill battle, but if you look at the polling numbers, 64 percent of likely voters support this reform and we’re really hopeful that lawmakers will listen to their constituents in an election year, particularly, and follow the will of the voters on this,” she added.
There is a lot of hope that voters will get the opportunity to decide on legalizing the recreational use of cannabis – but Maryland is still working on getting things right with their medical marijuana program. The state legalized medical marijuana back in 2013, but their first dispensaries weren’t opened for patients until last December – four years later. If legalization of recreational use is passed, lawmakers will need to get a move on things faster and with more efficiency than they have in the past to ensure things run smoothly.