No vote on adult-use bills in 2017, but support among Marylanders continues to climb
Last update: August 16, 2017
Support for marijuana legalization in Maryland is strong — and increasing. A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll conducted in September 2016 showed that 61% of Marylanders — and 64% of likely voters — support ending marijuana prohibition. This is a dramatic increase over just two years before, when support was at 54%.
While the legislation supported by MPP and our allies in the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition, SB 928 / HB 1185 and SB 927 / HB 1186, did not pass this session, significant progress was made. The bills got new co-sponsors, and our press conference generated significant positive media coverage, continuing to move the conversation forward.
The General Assembly is not in session again until January 2018 — but with lawmakers home in their districts, now is a great time to meet with them and express your support! You can find out who your legislators are by clicking here. You can also express your support for taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol by writing a letter to your local paper or inviting a speaker to your local civic group, place or worship, or other organization — contact us for help with either. Finally, please sign up for alerts, and consider donating to or endorsing the coalition.
Bill passed to make expunging past marijuana possession offenses easier
Marijuana policy in Maryland took a step forward during the 2017 session with the passage of SB 949, which will reduce the waiting period for expungement of a marijuana possession offense from 10 years to four years.
Beginning on October 1, this new 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. It also helps address racial disparities, since African Americans are almost three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Also during the 2017 session, MPP and our allies once again helped defeat bills that would have taken the state in the wrong direction by re-criminalizing smoking marijuana in public. Public smoking is already punishable by a civil fine of up to $500. This re-criminalization provision was removed from HB 1043 before it passed the House; it died in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Controversy around medical cannabis did not end with the legislative session
Despite a super-majority of legislators in both chambers agreeing to a compromise measure to address the lack of diversity in the medical cannabis industry, the bill did not pass. While a final vote on the emergency measure— HB 1443 — was taken, that vote did not count because it happened just after midnight on April 10, when the session must officially end.
The legislative Black Caucus called for an additional “special session” to pass the bill, but this was rejected by the Speaker and Senate President, who said they can address the issue when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2018.
Meanwhile, implementation continues, albeit slowly; Maryland will have one of the slowest rollouts of any state. One grower and one dispensary have received final licenses as of early August, and medical cannabis should be available by the year’s end.
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