The Maryland Home of Delegates on Friday handed payments to place marijuana legalization on the state’s 2022 poll and set preliminary guidelines if voters approve the reform in November.
The chamber had debated the proposals, rejected several GOP-led amendments and superior them to 3rd studying on Wednesday. Now lawmakers have given closing passage to the referendum and implementation measures—in votes of 96-34 and 92-37, respectfully—sending them to the Senate.
“We’re initially of an vital course of the place we start to look once more at how we now have handled this substance, hashish,” Del. Luke Clippinger (D), sponsor of each payments, mentioned forward of the ground vote.
He mentioned lawmakers should rethink the “1000’s of individuals we now have incarcerated” over marijuana, arguing that “these 1000’s of incarcerations haven’t made us safer.”
Clippinger is the chairman of the Home Judiciary Committee, which reported the bills out favorably last week. He additionally led a marijuana workgroup that Home Speaker Adrienne Jones (D) formed last summer to study the issue.
The primary of the chairman’s proposals, HB 1, would ask voters to approve an modification to the state’s structure to legalize hashish use and possession by adults no less than 21 years outdated. It might additional direct lawmakers to set legal guidelines to “present for the use, distribution, regulation, and taxation of hashish inside the state.”
After passing HB 1 (hashish referendum), the controversy for closing passage of HB 837 (hashish reform) now begins on the ground of the Home of Delegates. Be a part of us: https://t.co/XZZ94rp9vK https://t.co/oZrM9GJucF
— Luke Clippinger (@LukeClippinger) February 25, 2022
Clippinger’s second measure, HB 837, is designed to arrange preliminary guidelines for a authorized marijuana market if voters approve the coverage change.
It specifies that the acquisition and possession of as much as 1.5 ounces of hashish could be authorized for adults, and it might take away felony penalties for possession of as much as 2.5 ounces. Adults 21 and older could be allowed to develop as much as two crops for private use and reward hashish with out remuneration.
Previous convictions for conduct made authorized beneath the proposed legislation could be mechanically expunged, and other people at present serving time for such offenses could be eligible for resentencing. The laws makes it so folks with convictions for possession with intent to distribute can now petition the courts for expungement three years after serving out their time.
It might additional set up a Hashish Enterprise Help Fund to assist fairness initiatives for minority- and women-owned companies. That fund would go towards incubator and academic packages to advertise participation within the business by folks most impacted by criminalization.
To know the results of legalization on the state and its residents, the statutory invoice would additionally set up varied analysis initiatives, together with research into youth impacts, use patterns, impaired driving, promoting, labeling, high quality management of merchandise and obstacles to getting into the business. A baseline research could be carried out earlier than legalization, and updates could be despatched to the governor each two months.
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“Marylanders have fought yr after yr for equitable hashish legalization, and this milestone is a sign that the period of prohibition is lastly coming to an finish,” Olivia Naugle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Coverage Mission, instructed Marijuana Second. “We applaud Home Speaker Adrienne Jones for prioritizing efforts to legalize hashish this yr. With legislative leaders taking motion on this challenge, Maryland is effectively positioned to go a hashish legalization legislation in 2022.”
If voters approve legalization in November, it wouldn’t take impact instantly. Possession of small quantities of hashish would grow to be a civil offense on January 1, 2023, punishable by a $100 high quality for as much as 1.5 ounces, or $250 for greater than 1.5 ounces and as much as 2.5 ounces. Legalization for as much as 1.5 ounces wouldn’t kick in for an additional six months.
Advocates have taken challenge with that drawn-out timeline.
Home Invoice 1, placing a query on the poll this fall legalizing leisure hashish in Maryland, has handed the Home overwhelmingly!
— Delegate Eric Luedtke (@EricLuedtke) February 25, 2022
Clippinger and different lawmakers have indicated that they wish to deal with complete rules for an adult-use marijuana market subsequent yr after voters weigh in on the problem on the poll.
Throughout Wednesday’s preliminary flooring consideration of the payments on second studying, the Home minority chief and different GOP members tried to connect a number of amendments to the proposals to make them extra restrictive. All amendments—together with one that will have allowed native governments to choose out of legalization and proceed to criminalize folks over hashish—have been soundly defeated.
In the meantime, there are no less than three different competing legalization payments which have been filed within the state legislature this session.
On the Senate facet, in the meantime, Sen. Brian J. Feldman (D) earlier this month launched SB 833, which might additionally ask voters to approve a constitutional modification legalizing hashish for adults. That measure, like Clippinger’s plan, would go to voters in November and take impact in July 2023.
— MD Home Democrats (@mdhousedems) February 25, 2022
Feldman’s 83-page invoice would enable house cultivation of as much as 4 crops per grownup, with a most of eight crops per residence. It might additionally bundle the constitutional modification and primary regulatory framework in a single piece of laws, not like Clippinger’s bifurcated bundle.
Feldman was a lead creator on a separate legalization measure final yr that was co-sponsored by Senate President Invoice Ferguson (D).
Ferguson, for his half, mentioned final yr that he favored legalizing cannabis through the legislature somewhat than ready to ask voters on November’s poll.
With assist from my colleagues, HB 1 (hashish referendum) and HB 837 (hashish reform) have handed out of the Home of Delegates!
I stay up for working with the Senate to maneuver these payments ahead and ship on our dedication to legalize hashish on this state. pic.twitter.com/NU4U23fy8r
— Luke Clippinger (@LukeClippinger) February 25, 2022
One other Senate invoice in play this session, SB 692, from Sen. Jill Carter (D), would set larger possession quantities of as much as 4 ounces of marijuana and would enable house cultivation of as much as six hashish crops. Possession in extra of these limits would carry not more than a $150 high quality, and previous felony data could be cleared for sure cannabis-related costs.
Each Senate payments are set to be mentioned March 3 within the Senate Finance Committee.
A competing legalization invoice on the Home facet, HB 1342, was launched earlier this month by Del. Gabriel Acevero (D). It has a listening to on March 8.
Hashish legalization with out an equitable framework is just not progressive coverage.
Hashish legalization with out reparations for communities harmed by the intentional drug conflict is just not progressive coverage.
Heart communities most impacted.
HB 837 falls in need of that & I voted NO ❌
— Del. Gabriel Acevero (@GabrielAcevero) February 25, 2022
Legalization started to advance via Maryland’s legislature final session, however no votes have been finally held. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing last March on a legalization bill sponsored by Feldman and Ferguson. That adopted a Home Judiciary Committee hearing on a separate cannabis proposal in February.
Lawmakers then labored to reconcile the variations between the Home and Senate proposals in hopes of getting one thing to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan (R). Hogan has not endorsed legalization however has signaled he may be open to considering the idea.
A ballot in October discovered that the state’s residents are on board with the policy change. Two-thirds (67 p.c) of Marylanders now again legalizing hashish, based on a Goucher Faculty survey. Simply 28 p.c are opposed.
Maryland legalized medical marijuana via an act of the legislature in 2012. Two years later, a decriminalization legislation took impact that changed felony penalties for possession of lower than 10 grams with a civil high quality of $100 to $500. Since then, nonetheless, a variety of efforts to additional marijuana reform have fallen brief.
A invoice to increase the decriminalization possession threshold to an oz. passed the House in 2020 however was by no means taken up within the Senate.
Additionally that yr, the governor vetoed a invoice that will have shielded people with low-level cannabis convictions from having their records publicized on a state database. In a veto assertion, he mentioned it was as a result of lawmakers didn’t go a separate, non-cannabis measure aimed toward addressing violent crime.
In 2017, Hogan declined to answer a query about whether or not voters ought to be capable of determine the problem, however by mid-2018 he had signed a invoice to increase the state’s medical marijuana system and mentioned full legalization was price contemplating: “At this level, I feel it’s price looking at,” he mentioned on the time.
As for Maryland lawmakers, a Home committee in 2019 held hearings on two bills that would have legalized marijuana. Whereas these proposals didn’t go, they inspired many hesitant lawmakers to start significantly contemplating the change.
Photograph courtesy of Mike Latimer.