Maryland’s top lawmakers are pushing for the legalization of cannabis in the state, according to an article by Hannah Gaskill of Maryland Matters posted in Marijuana Moment. The proposal will make adult-use marijuana legal with the hopes of addressing the racial injustices suffered by communities adversely affected by the prohibition.
The bill is sponsored by the Senate Finance Committee Vice-Chair Brian J. Feldman and co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Nancy J. King, Budget and Taxation Chair Guy J. Guzzone, Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair William C. Smith, Vice-Chair Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher, and finally, Senate President Bill Ferguson. All sponsors are Democrats.
Maryland Matters was able to interview Ferguson by phone, in which he described the proposal as, “a cannabis legislation bill that would tax and regulate cannabis sales.” While its main focus is to reverse the criminalization of the plant and regulate its market, the proposed law also looks at several aspects such as socio-economic and criminal justice.
It also seeks to tackle the inequities and disproportionate implementation of the current marijuana laws, especially in minority communities.
The legislation is also expected to boost the state’s economy by imposing fees on the current medical cannabis industry in the state. The fees will go toward a social equity fund, which will help provide low-interest loan opportunities for minority business owners.
A part of the tax revenues which will be generated by the legal cannabis market, will be funneled to a Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund, which is also part of the proposed program’s social equity goal. This seeks to offer housing assistance, scholarship aid, re-entry programs, and other services to communities adversely affected by marijuana prohibition.
This is also expected to help those who had been imprisoned due to petty charges, especially expungements.
Ferguson commented, “There is no doubt that legalization of adult-use cannabis is a complex issue.” He added, “We need to make certain that economic benefits are equitably distributed and criminal justice reform is incorporated. Maryland is ready to move forward with this and I look forward to its hearing.”
While Feldman acknowledges that the bill will have amendments, this bill will help bring Maryland to the top of the list of states that includes social equity provisions in its legalization initiative.
Among the 50 states in the United States, adult-use marijuana has been legalized in 15 states, including Washington, DC. Of the remaining, four have included this matter in their November 3 ballots.
Feldman noted, “We’ve looked at best practices from the 15 other states that now are going this route so we have the benefit of looking at a variety of states… and try to come up with a bill that learns a little bit from some of the missteps in the other states.”
While this new bill has been introduced by its sponsors, the state has another bill sponsored by Delegate Jazz M. Lewis. The bills have their respective differences including the amount if cannabis possessed by adults, percentage of excise taxes, and manner of achieving social equity.