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Maryland lagging behind the 18 states that have legalized cannabis use

Maryland voters may get to decide at the ballot this November if adults over the age of 21 can legally use recreational marijuana.

House Bills 1 and 837 would put the legalization question on the General Election ballot, Olivia Naugle, a senior policy analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) who leads the group’s advocacy efforts in Maryland, told The Center Square.

“Maryland is currently lagging behind the 18 states — including its neighbors in Virginia and D.C. — that have legalized cannabis for adults,” said Naugle, who also takes a lead in organizing the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition. “Cannabis prohibition has caused decades of harm, particularly in communities of color, and it is long overdue Maryland moves forward with equitable legalization.”

Naugle said Marylanders have long supported legalizing cannabis.

Maryland Rep. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore County, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, sponsored House Bills 1 and 837, Marijuana Moment reported.

HB1 asks voters to approve an amendment to legalize cannabis use and possession by adults 21 years and older. HB387 specifies that the purchase and possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis would be legal and would remove criminal penalties for possession up to 2.5 ounces. Past convictions would be expunged and those serving time for such offenses would become eligible for resentencing.

As of Feb. 23, HB1 had its third reading, with the next step being sent to the Senate. HB837 passed its second reading on that date.

“If voters approve the question on the ballot, adults would be able to legally possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and cultivate two plants for their personal use beginning in July 2023,” Naugle said.

Neither bill sets up licensing or regulatory schemes for adult-use cannabis, which Naugle said the legislature would need to take up in 2023.

She said it is essential that legalization is rooted in equity and restorative justice.

“In addition to legalizing possession of cannabis and providing for broad expungement of prior cannabis convictions, legalization should also provide opportunities for those who have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition to be successful in the legal industry and for tax revenue from legal sales to be reinvested into those communities,” Naugle said.

A Goucher College poll released in October 2021 said 60% of state residents supported legalizing recreational marijuana, with 33% opposed. That was a slight dip in support since a March 2021 poll in which 67% of Marylanders supported legalization.

This article was originally posted on Maryland lagging behind the 18 states that have legalized cannabis use

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