Lawmakers in the Maryland General Assembly are scheduled to reconvene Jan. 12 for the annual 90-day legislative session in Annapolis with police reform and redistricting as a few of the major items on the agenda.
One bill already filed deals with asking voters whether to legalize recreational cannabis for adults.
The referendum question on the November general election ballot would read: “Do you favor the legalization of adult-use cannabis in the State of Maryland?”
The bill, drafted by Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) and planned for introduction on the first day of the session, has been worked on since last year on a House cannabis work group he chaired.
A poll conducted by Goucher College in October showed 60% of the 700 respondents support making marijuana legal for recreational use. The figure represents a 7% decrease from a poll done in March 2020.
Lawmakers must also pass new maps for state legislative districts, a process done every decade when new census data comes out to assess shifts in population.
Not many changes appear to be proposed, according to a draft map from the Maryland Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission.
In Prince George’s County, District 23 currently split into two sub districts of A and B in the Bowie area may become one district with three delegates and one senator.
Also in the northern part of the county, District 47B could remain the state’s only majority Latino district that includes Langley Park and Adelphi.
Although the legislature passed police reform bills that recently went into effect such as “Anton’s Law” and another prohibiting law enforcement agencies from purchasing military equipment from a surplus program, more are coming.
Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery County) plans to reintroduce a bill focused on qualified immunity against police officers who commit egregious acts against residents and hold them personally liable. In other words, it would allow a resident to pursue a civil suit for physical and emotional damages.
Under current state law, police officers, state employees and in certain situations, municipal employees, don’t have to face civil liability while on duty.
“If you’re an officer that’s following your training and doing what you’re supposed to do, immunity is not something that will impact you,” she said. “It’s really some of these officers we are seeing with some of these really egregious actions taking place. We want to ensure there is accountability for them.”
The ACLU of Maryland agrees and plans to advocate for other measures that include taking police out of schools, allowing children to have a parent or attorney present before being interrogated by police while in custody and reallocating 60% of the tax revenue from marijuana sales directly to Maryland communities directly impacted by the war on drugs.
The organization plans to hold a virtual press briefing Monday, Jan. 10 to review these and other legislative priorities for the upcoming session.
“Community and racial justice will continue to be at the center of our legislative advocacy during the 2022 legislative session,” Yanet Amanuel, interim public policy director for the ACLU of Maryland, said in a statement. “This focus includes efforts to legalize marijuana, establish proper redress for the harms caused by the failed war on drugs and reparations for impacted Black and Brown communities in Maryland, community oversight of police accountability and restorative approaches for school safety and legal support for children.”