Marijuana legalization not on the 2018 ballot, but lawmakers are
Last update: June 28, 2018
Unfortunately, the effort to let the people decide Maryland’s marijuana policy was not successful. Even though most Marylanders support marijuana legalization, the bills to put the issue on the ballot, SB 1039 and HB 1264, did not even get a vote this session.
What is on the ballot this election year? The lawmakers themselves! Every state-level legislative seat in Maryland will be on the ballot in November, along with the governor’s office.
In the June 26 primary, Democratic voters chose Ben Jealous — a vocal supporter of legalizing and regulating marijuana — as their nominee for governor. On the Republican side of the ticket, Gov. Larry Hogan is running for re-election. Hogan vetoed a bill decriminalizing marijuana paraphernalia in 2015, which the legislature overrode. He has not expressed support for legalization, but did recently say it was “worth taking a look at.”
Another notable result on June 26 was that House Judiciary Chairman Joe Vallario — a longtime obstacle to marijuana policy reform — lost his primary.
As part of the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition, we released a primary voter guide. Stay tuned as we update it with primary results in advance of the general election.
If a candidate for your district hasn’t responded to our survey, please consider reaching out to them on social media, by email, and/or at a public event. Ask where they stand on replacing marijuana prohibition with an equitable, thoughtfully regulated marijuana legalization law.
For information on how to register to vote, please visit the board of elections website.
Improvements to decriminalization law blocked in 2018
Two bills that would have expanded Maryland’s existing decriminalization law, SB 127 and SB 128, both sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, easily passed the Senate during the 2018 session. Unfortunately, they did not even get a vote in the House Judiciary Committee, so no progress was made on this issue during the 2018 session. The chairman of that committee, Joe Vallario, is a longtime opponent of all marijuana policy reform.
Maryland’s medical program is finally up and running!
Finally, after one of the slowest rollouts in the country, some of Maryland’s dispensaries began opening their doors and serving patients in late 2017. This is great news for patients, who have been waiting for years for access. Though prices are high, they will hopefully decrease as more businesses open and provide more competition.
Several bills that would have greatly harmed the medical program, including HB 1668, which would have required medical professionals to put themselves at risk under federal law by recommending a specific quantity of cannabis for each patient, were defeated in the 2018 session. Also, a bill that is aimed at increasing the number of minority-owned businesses in the industry passed in 2018.
New law makes expunging past marijuana possession offenses easier
Thanks in part to MPP’s advocacy, marijuana policy in Maryland took a step forward during the 2017 session with the passage of SB 949, which reduced the waiting period for expungement of a marijuana possession offense from 10 years to four years. This law will help people suffering from the many collateral consequences of a prior conviction, which can make it harder to find a job, travel, or obtain housing or an education. If you can’t afford an attorney to help you with your expungement, you can either file the paperwork yourself (this website has more information) or look for an upcoming expungement clinic where you can get free legal help here. (Unfortunately, MPP is not able to provide legal advice to individuals.)
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