Bills to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol introduced!
Last update: February 14, 2017
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 54% of Marylanders supported legalization. MPP, along with our allies in the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition, is working hard to pass companion bills to do just that: SB 928 / HB 1185 and SB 927 / HB 1186. Click here for more information on how these bills would benefit Maryland.
SB 928 / HB 1185 would allow adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and to grow up to six plants and would license tightly regulated businesses to cultivate, process, and sell cannabis, including a “craft cultivator” category for small businesses. SB 927 / HB 1186 would set a $30 per ounce excise tax and 9% sales tax (the same as alcohol). Half of the proceeds would go to high-poverty schools. These bills would also address equity and efficiency concerns that arose during implementation of the medical program in Maryland and ensure that people are not unfairly excluded from participation in the industry.
To get involved in helping pass this important reform, please sign up for alerts from the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition, and consider donating to or endorsing the coalition. You can also email your lawmakers in support of ending marijuana prohibition.
Medical marijuana program implementation slow and controversial
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) finally announced which businesses received preliminary approval to grow, process, and dispense medical marijuana. Unfortunately, the licensing process has been mired in controversy, in part because the MMCC did not “actively seek to achieve ethnic [and] racial diversity” as required by law. None of the pre-approved growers are owned or led by African Americans, who make up around a third of the state’s population and a disproportionate share of those who have been arrested or cited for marijuana possession.
Members of the legislative Black Caucus have introduced bills, SB 999 and SB 267 / HB 487, as emergency legislation in an effort to increase the number of licenses and ensure greater diversity. MPP is working to pass a compromise solution that would increase the arbitrary cap of 15 licenses, allowing more diverse businesses to enter the new industry, while ensuring that existing businesses can move forward to get medicine to suffering patients as quickly as possible.
Dispensaries are currently expected to begin opening in mid-to-late 2017, meaning that Maryland will have one of the slowest rollouts of any state.
Attempt to move backwards defeated in 2016, but back this year
MPP and our allies played a key role in defeating several bills in 2016 that would have taken the state in the wrong direction by re-criminalizing smoking marijuana in public — which was already punishable by a civil fine of up to $500. Criminal convictions result in more than 150 collateral consequences and can derail dreams by making it difficult to get jobs, housing, and an education. In addition, it is likely that racial disparities in enforcement would have continued.
Unfortunately, similar bills have been introduced again this year: SB 445 by Sen. Robert Cassilly (R-Harford County) and HB 1043 by Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s County). Click here for more information on the harm these bills would cause.
Thank you for supporting MPP. To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Maryland, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s alerts.