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Maryland Lawmakers Introduce Marijuana Legalization Bills

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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.

Sen. Will Smith Jr. filed the Senate version of the bill. He was part of a coalition of Democratic lawmakers that attempted to push legalization forward in 2017, but that legislation failed.

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.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 500 cannabis bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

We followed more than 900 pieces of cannabis legislation in 2018. Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

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

These 10 States Are Most Likely To Pass Marijuana Legalization Bills In 2019

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Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

Cory Booker Endorses Bill To Legalize Marijuana In New Jersey

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Efforts to legalize marijuana in New Jersey received a high-profile endorsement on Friday, with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) voicing support for the bill in a statement.

The senator, who is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and also sponsored congressional legislation to end federal cannabis prohibition, is the latest in a growing list of political leaders who’ve advocated for the bill, which was approved by state Senate and Assembly committees earlier this week and is expected to receive floor votes in both chambers on Monday.

“New Jersey is the first state in the country to couple decriminalizing marijuana with strong criminal justice reform measures to redress the decades of immense harm inflicted by an unfair system,” Booker said. “All too often, communities of color and low-income individuals are unjustly impacted by our broken drug policies, but by including measures to expunge records and reinvest in the communities most impacted, our state has the opportunity to lead in prioritizing social justice.”

The bill’s focus on social equity provisions has been critical in shoring up support as the legislature gets closer to a vote. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has been putting out calls to advocates and lawmakers to get the legislation advanced, which would fulfill a campaign promise of his.

“With this bill, New Jersey legislators can send a strong message to the country that marijuana legalization and social justice must be inextricably linked,” Booker said. “I’m hopeful our state will succeed in setting this example.”

It’s been a complicated process to form a coalition united around passing legalization in New Jersey. Disagreements between the governor and lawmakers about certain aspects of the bill such as tax rates and regulatory structures were finally resolved earlier this month when a compromise was reached. And amendments to expand expungement provisions gave the mayors of the state’s two largest cities proper assurance to back the legislation.

That said, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka (D) and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (D) continue to push for automatic expungements, as opposed to virtual expungements. Murphy said that automatic expungements is not a feasible policy.

“Now more than ever, we must work together,” the mayors said in a statement on Friday. “Again, we stand in unison in support of this legislation that could potentially become New Jersey’s law. We should aim to become a model state from which other states can clearly follow. We should address these issues in a manner that protects our communities and the people that live here.”

On Thursday, the governor’s office also released a list of quotes from lawmakers, activists and spiritual leaders voicing support for the legalization legislation.

“If we have learned anything at all, it is that the status quo has been disproportionately unfair to minority communities,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D) said. “This bill is a step in the right direction to correct that inequality.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) agreed, saying the legalization bill will “advance social justice, legal justice and economic justice in meaningful ways.”

“This is an opportunity for continued progress as we strive for a society that respects the rights of everyone,” he said.

Whether the legislation will be approved is yet to be seen. NJ.com is keeping track of where lawmakers currently stand on the bill, and as of Friday afternoon their online whip count shows that a majority in the Senate plan to vote against it, while votes allocated so far in the Assembly are roughly even.

New Jersey Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill

Photo courtesy of Jamelle Bouie.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Connecticut Lawmakers Hold Two Simultaneous Hearings On Marijuana Legalization Bills

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Two Connecticut committees held hearings on bills to legalize marijuana and expand the state’s medical cannabis program on Friday.

The proposed legislation would permit adults 21 and older to possess, purchase and consume certain amounts of marijuana for personal use. The House bill also includes a number of social equity provisions that are meant to encourage people from communities that were disproportionately impacted by prohibition to participate in the legal industry.

While reform advocates generally support the bills, they’ve also made a series of recommendation to increase the focus on restorative justice and to include policies such as allowing home cultivation.

In the legislature’s General Law Committee, witnesses including a commissioner for the state’s medical cannabis program and social equity advocates testified about HB 7371. That bill would establish a governor-appointed commission to regulate the industry, give licensing priority to individuals from communities most impacted by the drug war and require the commission to conduct a study on permitting a home grow option and microbusinesses.

“The time has come to move this forward. We think this is a fantastic start [and] there is definitely some amazing language in here,” Jason Ortiz, president of Connecticut United for Reform and Equity (CURE), said at the hearing. “There’s just some other pieces that we think undermine the really good parts that we can strike out and maybe amend and move the basic ideas forward.”

Advocates want to change the legislation so that home cultivation and microbusinesses are allowed from the outset, for example.

“Marijuana prohibition was borne of misinformation and racism and it continues to be enforced unequally to this day,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), testified.

Over in the Judiciary Committee, experts dedicated significant time to testimony about the public health and safety impacts of cannabis legalization. Lawmakers pressed the witnesses on issues such as labeling requirements, what kinds of edibles should be allowed, impaired driving and the mental health affects of consuming high-THC marijuana varieties.

The bill before that panel, SB 1085, would also legalize cannabis for adult use. But the legislation has a focus on expungements for individuals with prior marijuana convictions for possession of 1.5 ounces or less.

As with the House bill, advocates are supportive of the spirit of the legislation but feel certain provisions fall short. For example, MPP said that expungements should apply to convictions for any kind of cannabis conviction. The organization also called for a home grow option, which is not included in either legalization bill under consideration.

Two other pieces of cannabis legislation were discussed at the Judiciary committee hearing. One would create a misdemeanor penalty for driving while consuming marijuana and provide $500,000 in funding for law enforcement to train officers as drug recognition experts. The other bill specifies that employers don’t have to provide special accommodations for employees who use cannabis while working.

As one of the states considered most likely to legalize cannabis in 2019, the hearings offer another example of how the conversation around reform has shifted from “should it be legal” to “how should it be legal,” with the hearings largely concentrated on defining and promoting social equity provisions.

If either bill makes it through the legislature, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) is expected to sign.

He’s called the issue one of his “priorities” for the current legislative session and spoke about the issue during a budget speech last month.

Committee votes are expected on Monday.

Military Veterans Organizations Press Congress On Medical Marijuana Research

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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GOP Lawmakers Want Marijuana Banking Vote Delayed In Congress

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A key congressional committee is scheduled to vote on far-reaching legislation that would expand marijuana businesses’ ability to store their profits in banks on Tuesday.

But key Republican lawmakers on the panel are now asking Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) to delay the vote.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Read the full letter seeking a delay in the marijuana banking vote below:

GOP seeks delay on marijuan… by on Scribd

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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