Overwhelming support for marijuana policy reform in the Free State
On February 25, more than 100 supporters descended on Annapolis to testify before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in favor of three marijuana policy reform bills: Sen. Jamie Raskin’s SB 658, to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol, Sen. Bobby Zirkin’s SB 364, to decriminalize possession, and Sen. Raskin’s SB 923, to amend Maryland’s current ineffective medical marijuana program.
Despite overwhelming support from Marylanders to decriminalize marijuana, Gov. O’Malley has said that he is “not much in favor” of it. Please email Gov. O’Malley and ask him to stop the reefer madness.
In addition to these bills, the House is grappling with its own numerous marijuana reform proposals. A special legislative work group is considering Del. Curt Anderson’s HB 880, to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and up, Del. Dan Morhaim’s HB 881, to improve Maryland’s medical marijuana program, Del. Heather Mizeur’s decriminalization bill, HB 879, and many more.
You can view a three-page summary of Sen. Raskin and Del. Anderson’s legalization bills here. If you support this proposal, please ask your legislators to take marijuana off the criminal market and tax and regulate it similarly to alcohol.
MPP is proud to be a member of the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland, which is leading the charge for sensible marijuana policy in Maryland. This large and growing coalition includes the ACLU of Maryland, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, the Marijuana Policy Project, UFCW Local 400, and the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches.
Marijuana laws in Maryland
Under the current law, a person in possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana faces up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. A conviction for possession of over 10 grams can result in up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Although African-Americans and whites use marijuana at nearly the same rate, the enforcement of marijuana laws has been far from equal. This report by the ACLU found that blacks are about three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites.
Last year, Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill, HB 1101, to create a hospital-based medical marijuana research program. Introduced by Del. Dan Morhaim, M.D., this law is based on a proposal developed by Secretary Joshua Sharfstein of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The new law is far from perfect — marijuana would only be provided through teaching hospitals, which may or may not be willing to move forward with a program for patients, and the system will not take effect until at least 2015. Nonetheless, this bill is a step in the right direction, and we hope the state can provide relief to some of its neediest citizens. The new law went into effect on October 1, 2013.
In addition to the medical marijuana research law, an affirmative defense of “medical necessity” for people charged with possession is also available for both patients and caregivers.
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