According to Talking Points Memo, Sen. John McCain made some comments Thursday that some may find surprising:
McCain’s comments could not have been better timed. Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Justice Department’s new policy allowing states to move forward with taxing and regulating marijuana. Arizona’s other senator, Jeff Flake, is a member of that committee. Sen. Flake will have the opportunity to question Justice Department officials and help shape the future of federal policy on marijuana.
Sometimes in this movement, it’s feast or famine. Right now in Maryland, we’re feasting. Yesterday, the media was busy covering a hearing on legislation to tax and regulate marijuana and the Maryland Senate passing legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Today, they will be writing about committee votes all but certain to lead to medical marijuana legislation passing in Maryland.
Late last night, I received word that the House Judiciary and Health & Government Operations (HGO) Committees each approved legislation to set up a first-of-its-kind medical marijuana program in Maryland. The votes were overwhelming: 22-1 in HGO and 17-4 in Judiciary. I’m very optimistic, but let’s leave nothing to chance. If you live in Maryland, please ask your delegates and senators to vote “yes” on H.B. 1101. The bill isn’t perfect — marijuana will only be provided through academic medical centers, and it will take some time for the program to be implemented — but this is a big step forward. What’s important is that medical marijuana will be in the hands of doctors, not dealers, and people with debilitating illnesses will no longer be thought of as criminals.
Earlier today, the Maryland Senate passed SB 297 by a vote of 30-16. The bill will now move to the House of Delegates where it will need to be approved by the House Judiciary Committee and the full House of Delegates before being sent to Gov. O’Malley.
[caption id="attachment_6076" align="alignright" width="180"] Dan Riffle, MPP Deputy Director of Gov't Relations[/caption]
If S.B. 297 is passed in the House and signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, it would no longer be a criminal offense to possess up to about one-third of an ounce of marijuana in Maryland. Instead, police would simply issue a citation, and violators would pay the $100 ticket by mail. No arrest, no jail, just a small fine. That’s still not as good as Colorado or Washington, but it’s a dramatic improvement.
Also on the agenda in Maryland today was a hearing for H.B. 1453, which would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. MPP's Dan Riffle testified in support of the bill, which was the first of its kind to get a hearing in the Maryland Legislature.