Monday is a crucial deadline for marijuana policy reform bills in Maryland. HB 1264, which would let Marylanders vote on regulating marijuana for adults, needs to move out of the House Judiciary Committee by then to stay alive this year. HB 602, a bill that would protect the rights of Maryland’s medical cannabis patients, must be voted on by the Senate in order to “cross over” to the House of Delegates and move forward during this session.
If approved by 60% of both chambers of the Maryland Legislature, HB 1264 would place a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot that would make possession and home cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis legal for adults 21 years of age and older and require the state to establish regulations and taxation for a legal cannabis market, as well as to ensure diversity in the cannabis industry.
HB 602 would ensure that patients don't lose their Second Amendment rights under state law simply because medical cannabis helps them with their serious illness. Regardless of what you think about Maryland’s gun laws, no patient should have to lose any of their legal rights because of their status as a patient. This is of particular concern to veterans, who may be dissuaded from trying medical cannabis — a much safer alternative to the opioids they are frequently prescribed for pain or PTSD — because they don’t want to lose these rights.
The Marijuana Policy Project announced Wednesday that it is endorsing Del. David Moon for the Maryland Senate in District 20. The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee is expected to appoint a successor to Sen. Jamie Raskin, who is running for Congress.
As a member of the Judiciary Committee in the House of Delegates, David Moon has been an impassioned leader and a continuous advocate for marijuana policy reform, including acting as an important sponsor of legislation to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol. While some Democratic members of the House were joining their Republican counterparts in co-sponsoring bills to recriminalize smoking in public, which would have continued the racially disparate enforcement of the criminal law against people of color, Del. Moon was trying to move Maryland’s policy forward.
For example, he introduced a bill to help victims of prohibition expunge past convictions for marijuana possession. This is especially important because African Americans in Maryland have historically been 2.9 times more likely to be arrested for possession despite very similar usage rates. Thus, Black Marylanders are more likely to be burdened with a criminal record that can derail their ability to get a job and cause other collateral consequences — an issue that was not addressed in the decriminalization bill.
Delegate Moon is as impassioned about bridge-building as he is about policy solutions. He regularly crosses the aisle to discuss key civil liberties and decriminalization issues with conservative colleagues from across the state.
Last week, some observers appeared to give up on Vermont legalization bill S. 241 after it was gutted by the House Judiciary Committee. Not so fast! Today, the House Ways and Means Committee voted to amend S. 241 and restore core legalization provisions. The bill would not only legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older, but it would also allow personal cultivation of up to two plants. Next, the bill is expected to be considered by the Appropriations Committee.
In order to legally cultivate two plants, a person would be required to purchase a permit from the Department of Health for $125. Permits would be good for one year, and information on permit-holders would have to be kept confidential by the department (no fishing expeditions by law enforcement would be allowed).
We will continue advocating for a regulated market approach, but we are very pleased with this development, and we will continue to push for improvements as the process continues.
If you are a Vermont resident, please contact your lawmakers and tell them to support this measure.
Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee neutered two marijuana policy reform bills. Instead of considering the proposed policies on their merits, the committee completely amended the content of the bills to create a task force to study the issues. The two bills, SB 364 and HB 880, formerly would have respectively decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana and regulated marijuana similarly to alcohol.
The decriminalization bill, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin, has passed the Senate two years in a row with overwhelming bipartisan support — most recently, last month, in a 36-8 vote.
The Committee acted two days after D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed into law the most lenient decriminalization law in the country, and the same day as a national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 76% of Americans don't think people should be jailed for simple possession.