Maryland lawmakers filed bills filed this week that would make the state the latest to legalize marijuana.
Adults 21 and older would be allowed to possess, consume, grow and purchase cannabis under the legislation. Possession would be capped at one ounce for flower and five grams of concentrate, and individuals could grow up to four plants at a time.
As in other states weighing legalization this session, there’s a sense of inevitability in the Maryland legislature. House Speaker Michael Busch (D) said last month that legalization, “whether you support it or whether you don’t support it personally, I think that’s the future.”
“I think you’re going to see the country go to legalizing recreational marijuana and, you know, it’ll be much like overturning prohibition,” he said, according to the Associated Press, adding that he’d want to invest all of the tax revenue from marijuana sales in education.
Senate President Thomas Miller Jr. (D) agreed that cannabis is a billion dollar industry that should be regulated, but he said talk about how to appropriate tax revenue was premature. Miller came out in support of legalization in 2014, saying that he favors “the legalization and taxation of marijuana, with restrictions”
“I know where people are going to be a generation or two from now,” he said.
Meanwhile, other legislative leaders are putting together a working group meant to study how legal industries operate in other states to inform Maryland’s approach.
And in Baltimore, the city’s top prosecutor announced last week that her office would no longer prosecute individuals marijuana possession cases and also work to clear the records of those with prior convictions.
Del. Eric Luedtke (D), who introduced the House version of the new legalization bill, told Maryland Matters that the prosecutorial change in the state’s biggest city is a step in the right direction, but won’t necessarily affect change in the capital.
“We are headed to legalization as it is,” he said.
Under his new legislation, marijuana sales would be taxed at six percent, with funds from that revenue going toward substance abuse treatment, impaired driving prevention, education and investments in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war.
Some of the tax revenue would go toward a restorative justice component of the bill—namely providing for the automatic expungement of past cannabis possession and cultivation convictions. Individuals with other marijuana-related convictions, including sales, would be able to submit petitions to the court to get their records cleared.
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A separate House proposal would place the question of legalizing cannabis on the ballot for voters to decide as a constitutional amendment.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has been reluctant to take a stance on full legalization. While he said that legalization is “worth taking a look at” last year, he recently said he feels it would be “premature” to pass such legislation now. He pointed to what he described as “kinks” in the state’s medical cannabis program that need to be addressed first.
“It was really screwed up before we got here,” Hogan said last month. “It was a mess digging out of it. We’re finally getting it on track.”
Legalization advocates cheered the new legislation.
“These bills propose a sensible system in which cannabis is regulated, taxed, and treated similarly to alcohol,” Olivia Naugle, legislative coordinator for the Marijuana Policy Project said in a press release. “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.”
Read the text of the new Maryland marijuana legalization bill as filed in the Senate below:
Maryland legalization bill by on Scribd
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.
Senate Schedules Hearing On Marijuana Business Banking Access
In one of the clearest signs of marijuana reform’s growing momentum on Capitol Hill, a Republican-controlled Senate committee has scheduled a hearing for next week that will examine cannabis businesses’ lack of access to banking services.
The formal discussion in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on Tuesday comes as legislation aimed at resolving the marijuana industry’s financial services problems is gaining momentum. A House cannabis banking bill that cleared that chamber’s Financial Services Committee with a bipartisan vote in March now has 206 cosponsors—nearly half the body—while companion Senate legislation has 32 out of 100 senators signed on.
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Congressman Files Marijuana Bill After Leaving Republican Party
In one of his first legislative acts since leaving the Republican Party earlier this month amid a feud with the president, Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) filed a bill on Monday that would let states set their own marijuana policies without federal interference.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because bipartisan legislation that would accomplish the same goal has already been filed this Congress.
But unlike the nearly identical Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, Amash’s new bill excludes one provision that would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the effects of cannabis legalization on road safety and issue a report on its findings within a year of the law’s enactment.
That language states that the GAO must study “traffic crashes, fatalities, and injuries” in legal cannabis states, actions taken by those states to “address marihuana-impaired driving,” testing standards being used to detect impaired driving and federal initiatives “aiming to assist States that have legalized marihuana with traffic safety.”
Given Amash’s libertarian leanings, it stands to reason that he opposes spending government dollars to conduct the research and simply supports the broader states’ rights intent of the original legislation.
That would also put him at odds with social justice advocates who feel that the STATES Act itself doesn’t go far enough and are pushing for more comprehensive legislation that includes additional provisions addressing social equity and restorative justice for people harmed by drug law enforcement.
Members of the House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee heard that debate play out during a historic hearing on ending federal marijuana prohibition last week.
A newly formed coalition of civil rights and drug reform organizations, including the ACLU, is also insisting on passing wide-ranging legislation to deschedule cannabis entirely that also invests in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by prohibition.
Amash is a long-standing critic of the war on drugs and earlier this year signed on as a cosponsor of a separate bill that would federally deschedule marijuana. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, filed that legislation, which is also silent on social equity provisions.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 8, 2019
Gabbard also introduced a separate bill that would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies to study the impacts of legalization. True to form, Amash declined to add his name to that measure as well.
Read the text of Amash’s new cannabis bill below:
Photo courtesy of Kyle Jaeger.
Berkeley City Council Considers Decriminalizing Psychedelics This Week
A resolution to decriminalize psilocybin and other psychedelics will go before a Berkeley, California City Council committee on Wednesday.
Decriminalize Nature, the group behind the measure, also led the charge to successfully get a measure decriminalizing entheogenic plants and fungi approved by the City Council in neighboring Oakland last month.
In Berkeley, the Public Safety Committee will discuss the proposal and can either decide to hold it for a future meeting or advance it to the full Council. The public is able to attend Wednesday’s special meeting and share their perspective on the resolution, but Decriminalize Nature stressed in a tweet that this “is a small meeting, so you do NOT need to attend.”
Is it time for #DecriminalizeNature #Berkeley? Agenda 4 at the public safety meeting this Wed. July 17, with the Decriminalize Nature team! This is a small meeting, so you do NOT need to attend. But if you live in Berkeley, write your City Council! https://t.co/gMSDkegMPU
— Decriminalize Nature (@DecrimNature) July 15, 2019
However, city residents are being encouraged to write to their Council members and urge them to vote in favor of the measure, which would codify that “no department, agency, board, commission, officer or employee of the city, including without limitation, Berkeley Police Department personnel, shall use any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the use and possession of Entheogenic Plants by adults of at least 21 years of age.”
The resolution defines the covered substances as “plants and natural sources such as mushrooms, cacti, iboga containing plants and/or extracted combinations of plants similar to ayahuasca; and limited to those containing the following types of compounds: indoleamines, tryptamines, phenethylamines.”
Councilmembers Rigel Robinson and Cheryl Davila are sponsoring the resolution, which does not allow for commercial sales or manufacturing.
The lawmakers provided background information on the measure in a report to their colleagues and the mayor, describing the medical potential of various psychedelics as well as the success of decriminalization measures in Denver and Oakland.
“It is intended that this resolution empowers Berkeley residents to be able to grow their own entheogens, share them with their community, and choose the appropriate setting for their intentions instead of having to rely exclusively on the medical establishment, which is slow to adapt and difficult to navigate for many,” they wrote.
While efforts to eliminate criminal penalties associated with psilocybin and other psychedelics have so far centered in jurisdictions that have historically embraced marijuana legalization and broader drug reform, the conversation around decriminalizing psychedelics is spreading nationally.
Shortly after Oakland approved its measure, Decriminalize Nature received inquiries from activities in cities from across the country. The group has kept track of each city where organizers are pursuing decriminalization.
Nature lovers are organizing coast to coast (and Hawaii)! Is your city on the map? Connect to join with your local community, or if you have the motivation to propose a similar initiative in your city/town/county, let’s start growing! contact [email protected] #DNUSA pic.twitter.com/38UxLKK9RN
— Decriminalize Nature (@DecrimNature) July 2, 2019
On Monday, a conversation around changing laws governing psychedelics reared during a City Council meeting in Columbia, Missouri. One resident implored the body to take up a resolution to decriminalize the natural substances, pointing to their therapeutic benefits.
Councilmember Mike Trapp said that the student’s proposal should be considered and that a government advisory board on public health should provide input on the medical potential of psychedelics, describing it as “very promising.”