State lawmakers in both chambers filed legislation Wednesday that would end cannabis prohibition in Maryland.
SB0771, sponsored by Sen. William C. Smith, Jr., and HB0656, sponsored by Del. Eric Luedtke, would make cannabis legal for adults 21 and older and establish a system in which cannabis is regulated and taxed for adult use. Past convictions for cannabis possession and cultivation would be automatically expunged.
Del. David Moon filed a constitutional amendment, HB0632, which would establish a similar system. If enacted, it would be placed on the ballot and decided by Maryland voters in November.
“A strong and steadily growing majority of Marylanders think it is time to end cannabis prohibition,” said Olivia Naugle, legislative coordinator for the Marijuana Policy Project. “One way or another, cannabis is going to become legal for adults in Maryland.
“These bills propose a sensible system in which cannabis is regulated, taxed, and treated similarly to alcohol,” Naugle said. “They would bring cannabis production and sales above ground so that they can be conducted by licensed, taxpaying businesses rather than criminal enterprises. Most importantly, this legislation would improve public health and safety, but it would also have the bonus of generating significant new tax revenue for the state.”
A September 2018 Goucher Poll found 62 percent of state residents support making cannabis legal for adult use, up from 58 percent in 2017 and 54 percent in 2016. Only one-third of residents are opposed, according to the 2018 poll.
“States around the country are rolling back prohibition and finding that regulating cannabis works,” Naugle said. “Maryland has the opportunity to learn from other states, determine what has worked and what can be improved, and develop a system that can serve as an example for the rest of the country.”
Nine states have enacted laws regulating and taxing marijuana for adult use. In addition, Vermont and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws making marijuana possession and cultivation legal for adults, and their governments are now considering proposals to regulate commercial production and sales.