Maryland Poised To Legalize Recreational Cannabis In 2022

Maryland Poised To Legalize Recreational Cannabis In 2022

Maryland State Delegate Luke Clippinger has drafted a bill to place a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana statewide. Designated as House Bill 1, the bill has top priority to be formally presented at the beginning of the session in January. 

Following a House Judiciary Committee hearing on a cannabis proposal in February, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing in March on a legalization bill sponsored by Senate President Bill Ferguson. Maryland lawmakers worked to reconcile discrepancies between the two proposals. However, they could not wrangle the votes necessary to present a comprehensive bill to Governor Larry Hogan to sign. Many believe the governor remains open to the idea of legalization.

If passed, HB 1 would move onto the November ballot. The question for voters would be: “Do you favor legalization of adult-use marijuana in the State of Maryland?” If it passes, the new regulations would go into effect on July 1, 2023. In the interim, lawmakers would develop rules permitting the “use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis within the state.” Some cannabis advocates and activists are frustrated by the timeframe. They want possession and home cultivation legalized immediately upon passage of the bill.

Senator Ferguson has said Maryland cannabis reform is “beyond past due.” Instead of a referendum process, he advocates passing a bill to end cannabis prohibition before November. 

“We are disappointed the pre-filed House referendum would continue the devastating war on cannabis for months after voters legalize cannabis,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “We also urge the legislature to pass implementing legislation in 2022 to ensure racial justice is at the heart of legalization and to allow for a more timely transition to a safe, regulated market.” While illicit resealable bags of cannabis continue to circulate even in legalized states, battling those concerns is becoming an increasing priority.

The House Cannabis Referendum and Legalization Workgroup, formed by House Speaker Adrienne Jones, has been examining issues related to the expungement of prior convictions, social equity, business licensing, traffic laws related to marijuana, and cannabis tax policy, all of which have been contentious subjects in many other states.

The state legislature legalized medical marijuana in 2021. A decriminalization bill took effect two years later, which replaced criminal penalties for possession of fewer than 10 grams to a civil fine of $100 to $500. According to a Goucher College survey, 67% of Maryland residents support legalizing cannabis, only 28% opposed. 

Del. Luke Clippinger is the chair of the Judiciary Committee and the House Cannabis Referendum and Legalization Workgroup.

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