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Maryland Gov. Wants To Avoid Long, Drawn-out Cannabis Rollout

Maryland’s voters elected last year a new governor, and they approved legalizing recreational cannabis. 

Now the newly-sworn-in Governor. Wes Moore will lead the effort to implement the state’s marijuana law.

“People of the state overwhelmingly chose to decriminalize cannabis. So we as a state now have an obligation to make sure that the will of the people is both heard, but that we do have a swift and equitable rollout,” Moore, a Democrat, told Politico in an interview that was published this week.

Moore won handily in his race against Republican Dan Cox in November, 65% to 32%, to become Maryland’s first black governor. 

Maryland voters also approved Question 4 in that same election. This legalized recreational cannabis use for adults and laid the foundation for regulation of retail cannabis markets. 

Parts of the new law on cannabis took effect when the calendar turned to 2023 in this month. 

Maryland no longer considers possession of more than one and a half ounces of marijuana a crime. It is now a civil offense. The law will fully allow it to be possessed starting July.

Marylanders with marijuana convictions will see their record expunged by summer 2024. However, they can petition the court to get it resentenced sooner. 

The state’s regulated cannabis market, however, likely won’t launch until 2024 or 2025. 

Moore stated in a recent interview that it’s important not to delay the launch of the new marijuana program.

“That is something that we will be [working with]This session was a legislative session. We will need to make sure that it is reflected in our budgetary agenda.

That is how we’re making sure that the process of the rollout of cannabis is going to be equitable, it’s going to be transparent and it’s going to be quick,” said Moore, who was sworn in as governor on Wednesday. “We cannot have a process that takes 18 to 24 months to roll out, because if this goes on too long, what you’re doing is you’re inviting the illegal market back into it. Then you’re going to run into some of the same challenges that some of these other states are having or have had.”

Moore added, “This has to be something where, once we have everything in place when it comes to cannabis, from distribution, taxation and revenue returns, [if you’re buying on the black market]This, as with any illegal transaction, makes it illegal. I think that’s one of the reasons why, again, we want to make sure we’re being transparent, equitable and quick within this process.” 

Sixty-seven per cent of Maryland voters voted for Question 4 in November. Only 33% opposed the measure. 

Trulieve was the financial backer of Question 4. It already has medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state.

The “Yes on 4” campaign was led by Eugene Monroe, a former player for the Baltimore Ravens.

“Tonight voters in Maryland made history by bringing the era of failed marijuana prohibition to an end,” Monroe said in November after Question 4 passed. “For decades, the unequally enforced criminalization of cannabis in Maryland inflicted damage upon Black and Brown communities. We must turn the page on that disturbing history by centering Maryland’s legal marijuana market around racial equity. Legalizing cannabis will result in good-paying job opportunities, small-business owners having access to new revenue, and a state with more tax revenue. Legislators in Maryland have a responsibility to ensure people in historically underserved communities are able to enjoy those benefits.”