No vote on adult-use bills in 2017, but planning for 2018 has already begun!
Last update: April 14, 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. The 2017 session continued to move the conversation forward, and we are already planning for next year.
2018 can be Maryland’s year — but we need your help! While lawmakers are at home in their districts 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. The bill will now go to Gov. Hogan’s desk; click here to urge him to sign it.
This legislation 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.
This can be remedied in a special session of the General Assembly, which may be called either by the governor alone or by a petition from a majority of the legislators in each chamber. The legislative Black Caucus has called for such a session to pass the bill; in the meantime the existing program — and the lawsuits about who got licenses and who was left behind — will move forward.
Dispensaries must be operational by December 2017, meaning that Maryland will have one of the slowest rollouts of any state. One bright spot is that the patient registry finally began rolling out on April 10, 2017. While registered patients cannot yet purchase cannabis legally, they can more easily take advantage of the state’s affirmative defense if they are arrested or fined for possessing cannabis.
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