ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to discuss legislation that would put a cannabis legalization question before the voters in November. Lawmakers will hear testimony in support of HB 1264, introduced by Del. David Moon, by Kate Bell of the Marijuana Policy Project and other representatives of the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition. The hearing will take place in the Judiciary Committee Hearing Room in the Lowe House of Delegates Office Building in Annapolis at 1 p.m. ET.
If approved by 60% of both chambers of the Maryland Legislature, the bill would place a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot that would make possession and home cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis legal for adults 21 years of age and older and require the state to establish regulations and taxation for a legal cannabis market. The bill to refer the issue to the voters could not be vetoed by the governor.
It would direct the General Assembly to pass legislation in 2019 to implement the amendment and direct the comptroller to regulate the production, processing, testing, and sale of cannabis. The regulations would be required to ensure diversity in cannabis business licensees, protect consumers through tracking, testing, and labeling of cannabis products, and allow local governments to control the number of cannabis businesses in their jurisdictions and determine whether to allow limited on-site social consumption. It would remain illegal to consume cannabis in public or drive under the influence.
“Despite having decriminalized marijuana in 2014, Maryland is still prosecuting well over 4,000 people a year — disproportionally people of color — for nothing more than possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol,” said Kate Bell, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “There is a better path, which Washington and Colorado forged five years ago and six more states are now pursuing. We can successfully take cannabis out of the criminal market, where profits go to gangs and violent cartels, and put it in the hands of taxed, regulated businesses. A majority of Maryland voters support making marijuana legal for adults. It is time for Maryland lawmakers to let their constituents weigh in on this important issue.”
Sixty-four percent of likely Maryland voters support making cannabis legal for adults, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland Poll conducted in September 2016.