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House Bill 837 Aims to Legalize Pot Possession, Home Grow in Maryland

A new campaign was launched by activists supporting a Maryland ballot referendum that legalizes cannabis. It urges voters to back the initiative when they vote on November 8. This ballot measure will make Maryland the twenty-first state to legalize adult recreational marijuana if it is passed.

Two bills were passed by the Maryland General Assembly in April to legalize recreational cannabis. Under the proposals, Maryland voters will decide in this fall’s general election if cannabis should be legalized for adults, leaving lawmakers to pass additional legislation to regulate the commercial cannabis industry.

“We’re at the beginning of an important process where we begin to look again at how we have treated the substance—cannabis,” Delegate Luke Clippinger, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and the sponsor of the legislation, told his colleagues in the House of Delegates when they passed the bills earlier this year.

Clippinger reports that lawmakers approved House Bill 837. This measure would allow adults to possess up to one and a half ounces of cannabis for legal purposes. It also creates an equitable pathway to legalization of cannabis. Adults would be allowed to grow up to 2 cannabis plants at their home under the bill.

Maryland In November, the Question 4 question will be decided by voters

House Bill 837 is set to go into effect when voters approve House Bill 1. This constitutional amendment measure on cannabis legalization will be placed as Question 4 in the November general election. Trulieve is a marijuana producer and retailer that has operations in eight states including three Maryland medical marijuana dispensaries. Trulieve supports the referendum.

The campaign to pass Question 4 released a new campaign that featured a video and website encouraging Maryland voters to legalize cannabis in Maryland. Eugene Monroe, a former offensive lineman for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and the chairman of the committee sponsoring the referendum campaign, said the ballot measure would create economic opportunities for both entrepreneurs and workers.

“Legalizing cannabis would stimulate Maryland’s economy and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, while allowing Maryland residents to benefit from vital investments in education, public health, and public safety funded by cannabis taxes,” Monroe said in a statement quoted by the Washington Post.

Maryland’s General Assembly supports cannabis policy reform. They believe legalization of marijuana will allow the state to address the effects of prohibition and the War on Drugs. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Black Marylanders were nearly twice as likely in 2010- 2018 to be charged with marijuana-related offenses than White Marylanders.

“Passing Question 4 will put an end to the failed criminalization of cannabis, create a well-regulated legal marijuana market centered around equity, and open up new doors for local entrepreneurs and small business owners,” Monroe said in the statement.

Delegate Jazz Lewis of Prince George’s County, who gave his reluctant approval to the legislation passed earlier this year, said that the legal cannabis industry should be open to all.

“We need to make sure that we build a brand new industry where people can get in where it is most appropriate for them, and that they have a support system around them so that they can thrive,” said Lewis.

Maryland legalized medical marijuana on April 14, 2014. Three years later the market for medicinal cannabis was established. Black-owned businesses weren’t allowed to do business in the sector. Gabriel Acevero (delegate from Montgomery County) said the industry should not be run in the same way.

“The Maryland General Assembly unfortunately got it wrong on medical cannabis,” said Acevero. “It did not prioritize equity, it did not ensure that – in an industry that now generates millions – that communities most impacted would be able to participate in that.”

“We’re not prioritizing mitigating the impacts of the racist drug war – we’re just moving on this issue because we recognize that it’s very popular with Marylanders and for some people, it’s politically expedient,” Acevero added. “But we have to get this right.”

David Moon is a Montgomery County delegate and the chairman of the subcommittee on criminal justice of the legalization group. According to Moon, the group will not draft a regulatory system until after the referendum passes and the equity studies have been completed in the early part of next year.

“That’s exactly why we’re on this sort of two step process,” Moon said. “This whole conversation about licensing requires a few more conversations and analysis, I think because of exactly the history [of the medical marijuana inequities.] The workgroup meetings that have happened have been about getting the basic conversations going on licensing and health effects, so I think it’s really a preview for what’s going to happen in next year’s legislative session.”

Question 4 has strong support with only 50 days to go before the election. On Monday morning, 59% of likely voters surveyed said they would support the referendum in a poll released to them.