Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones announced Friday her support for voters to decide through a referendum in 2022 whether to legalize cannabis.
The Democratic leader from Baltimore County highlighted a plan to create a bipartisan work group to hash out details on legislation such as the regulation, production and oversight of the product. Parts of the cannabis plant, often referred to as marijuana, remain only legal for medicinal purposes in Maryland.
“While I have personal concerns about encouraging marijuana use, particularly among children and young adults, the disparate criminal justice impact leads me to believe that the voters should have a say in the future of legalization,” Jones said in a statement. “The House will pass legislation early next year to put this question before the voters but we need to start looking at changes needed to state law now.”
Jones appointed Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) to chair the work group. He also chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
“Cannabis use has had a disparate impact on people of color for too long with no real impact on public safety,” Clippinger said in a statement. “The Speaker has been clear that we will do this with an eye toward equity and consideration to black and brown neighborhoods and businesses historically impacted by cannabis use.”
The 11-member work group of eight Democrats and three Republicans plans to meet starting in the fall. Their tasks will include:
To address expungement of previous cannabis convictions and determine any changes to existing laws.
To review existing criminal and traffic laws related to marijuana.
To structure equitable ownership in cannabis-related businesses.
Thirty-seven states, including Maryland, allow for the use of medical cannabis.
According to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, the projected medicinal sales in the state reached $450 million last year. The figure doubled in the state of Massachusetts and tripled in the state of New Jersey.
Legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes has passed in 18 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. Governors in New York, New Mexico and Virginia signed marijuana legislation into law this year. However, it remains illegal on the federal level as a “Schedule 1” drug under the Controlled Substance Act through the Drug Enforcement Administration www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling.
Del. Nicole Williams (D-District 22) of Greenbelt, one of the members appointed to the cannabis work group, said times have changed nationwide on the stigma of marijuana.
“I think it’s time for us as a state to really study legalizing marijuana for recreational use,” she said. “I agree with the Speaker in terms of putting it to the voters of the state of Maryland to see if that is the direction they want to go. If so, [we need to create] a regulatory framework that is equitable and fair for all Marylanders.”
@jabariwill

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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