Press Release

Del. Jazz Lewis and Broad Coalition of Advocates Call for Maryland Cannabis Legalization During Press Conference

Jan 26, 2021

Recording of the press conference is available here.

Annapolis, MD — Today, the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition held a virtual press conference in support of Del. Jazz Lewis’ (D) comprehensive legalization bill, HB 32 — The Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, Inclusion, Restoration, and Rehabilitation Act of 2021. A recording of the press conference is available here.

HB 32 would legalize personal possession and home cultivation of cannabis for adults, automatically expunge past cannabis offenses, establish a social equity program to ensure inclusion in the industry from disproportionately impacted communities, and reinvest a significant portion of tax revenue to endowments to Maryland’s four HBCUs and communities hardest hit by the war on drugs.

"This legislation will mark a turning point in Maryland history and signify a new way Maryland handles social equity and restorative justice. And hopefully, it will help frame racial equity for other states contemplating legalization,” said Del. Jazz Lewis, sponsor of HB 32.

Fifteen states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana for adults 21 and over. According to a February 2019 Goucher poll, 57% of Marylanders support cannabis legalization. 

Coalition members supporting HB 32 include: Progressive Maryland, National Working Families Party, 1199 SEIU, Maryland NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Clergy for a New Drug Policy, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, and Casa de Maryland.

Speakers in attendance included Baltimore Police Det. Debbie Ramsey, Ret., member of Law Enforcement Action Partnership’s Speakers Bureau; Dr. Ralph Salvagno, MD, orthopaedic surgeon, Republican mayor of Hancock, MD, and spokesperson for Doctors for Cannabis Regulation; Ben Jealous, co-director of Progressive Maryland’s campaign for marijuana legalization, former national president of the NAACP, and 2018 Democratic candidate for governor; Steve Hawkins, of Laurel, MD, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project and former executive vice president of the NAACP, executive director of Amnesty International USA, and president of the Coalition for Public Safety; Joel Madden, lead vocalist for the American pop punk band Good Charlotte, co-chair for Progressive Maryland’s marijuana legalization effort, entrepreneur, and philanthropist; Hope Wiseman, CEO of Mary and Main dispensary in N. Capitol Heights, MD; and Alfrieda Hylton, mother of two sons who experienced the trauma of incarceration for cannabis in Maryland.

Statements from speakers and coalition members:

“Legalizing and regulating cannabis is in the best interest of bolstering public health in our communities. Marylanders should no longer be forced to rely on an illicit market that has the potential to expose consumers to molds, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals. Many states, including Massachusetts, Maine, and Michigan, have shown that regulating cannabis works. Numerous studies have found that cannabis is objectively less harmful than alcohol. It is time for our state to provide safe and regulated cannabis to the adult-use population.” - Dr. Ralph Salvagno, MD, mayor of Hancock, MD, and spokesperson for Doctors for Cannabis Regulation

“The war on cannabis and its disparate enforcement has led to devastating costs and decades of harm to people and communities of color. Del. Lewis’ bill would work to reverse this damage by removing one of the most common pretexts for arrests and providing meaningful economic opportunities and community reinvestment for those that have been hit hardest by prohibition.” - Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project

“HB 32 would transform our state’s cannabis policies. Cannabis prohibition has devastated communities of color, bred violence, and poisoned police-community relations. In contrast, HB 32 is founded on reparative and racial justice and would remove a source of tension and build trust between law enforcement and communities. Putting an end to cannabis criminalization is an integral part of police reform and would allow for law enforcement professionals to focus their time and resources on more serious and dangerous crimes.” - Baltimore Police Det. Debbie Ramsey, Ret.

“The cannabis industry has historically been built on the backs of minorities. Now that it is becoming legal in Maryland, we have an opportunity to lead the industry in creating a program that champions social equity and provides access from every angle.” - Hope Wiseman, CEO of Mary and Main Dispensary in N. Capitol Heights, MD

“The tax revenue from legalizing marijuana isn’t only going to help our economy recover from economic losses due to the pandemic, but the truth of the matter is that done right, this legislation is going to save lives. People of color are more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession and are also more likely to experience police brutality. These two issues are intricately linked, and legalizing marijuana is a step in the right direction toward ending the racist war on the drugs.” - Ben Jealous, co-director of Progressive Maryland’s campaign for marijuana legalization and former national president of the NAACP

“As a longtime cannabis advocate, I fully support the end of incarceration for possession of marijuana, allowing home growth, and ensuring the strongest possible equity measures in undoing the traumas of the war on drugs. This bill will help move that effort further in Maryland.” - Martin Mitchell, President of Prince George's County Young Democrats 

“I’m glad to join with Progressive Maryland in support of legalizing and regulating cannabis possession and use. Together we also want to ensure that those who have been historically harmed by cannabis laws are the ones who reap the benefits of this lucrative economy through government support of small cannabis businesses and putting tax revenues into low-income communities and communities of color.” - Joel Madden, lead vocalist for the American pop punk band Good Charlotte, co-chair for Progressive Maryland’s marijuana legalization effort, entrepreneur, and philanthropist

“Marijuana prohibition is a racist policy that has caused real damage to Maryland citizens and their families. HB 32 will help heal the open wounds caused by this misguided policy and must pass this legislative session. Fifty-seven percent of drug related arrests in Maryland are for marijuana; there can be no police or racial justice reform without full marijuana legalization. The harmful legacy of this racist policy is too costly to extend into another year — the General Assembly must act now and prevent another year of harmful, racially discriminatory police discretion.” - Luke Jones, Director of NORML Maryland