The Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition just updated our voter guide for Maryland’s general election on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. All 188 of Maryland’s lawmakers are up for election this year, and we’ve graded the marijuana policy positions of those that responded to our candidate survey. We hope this guide is helpful as you prepare to vote!
Maryland’s 2018 gubernatorial election is also important for marijuana policy reform. Democratic candidate Ben Jealous has repeatedly declared his support for legalizing and regulating marijuana. The Maryland Green Party and Libertarian Party of Maryland, both members of the coalition, are also fielding candidates who support legalization, Sean Quinn and Ian Schlakman.
Unfortunately, Republican candidate (and current governor) Larry Hogan’s views on the topic are not entirely clear. Please help us get his position firmly on the record! Consider attending a campaign event (listed on his Facebook page or Eventbrite) and respectfully asking him to explain his views. Or, you can send him an email. If you get a response, or just hear him comment on marijuana policy reform, please let us know.
And of course, don’t forget to register to vote! You must register by October 16, 2018 to vote in this election.
On Sunday, SB 949, which makes it easier for people who have been convicted of marijuana possession to clear their records in Maryland, went into effect. The bill became law in May without Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature.
Prior to the bill’s passage, anyone convicted of cannabis possession was required to wait 10 years before applying for expungement, despite Maryland decriminalizing possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana in 2014. Now, the waiting period has been reduced from 10 years after conviction to four years.
While this reform is a step in the right direction, it is far short of the improvements Marylanders need. If you are a Maryland resident, please write to your state legislators, and ask them to support taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.
Now that most state legislative sessions are over for the year, MPP's Rob Kampia has published a list of the biggest victories in what is already the biggest year on record for marijuana policy reformers!
On July 29, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill removing the threat of arrest for small amounts of marijuana, capping a record year of legislative and administrative marijuana policy reforms throughout the country.
In addition to Illinois, a number of other states enacted laws to reduce marijuana possession penalties. Kansas lowered the maximum jail sentence for first-time possession and reduced second offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Louisiana and Maryland removed criminal penalties for possession of paraphernalia, with the Maryland Legislature overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto. Oklahoma cut the penalties for second marijuana possession offenses in half, and Tennessee reduced a third possession offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, making the maximum penalty less than a year in jail. At the local level, New Orleans and a number of Florida counties passed ordinances that give police the option to issue summons or citations instead of arresting people for low-level possession.
SB 517, introduced by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), removes criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia. The measure also imposes a new civil fine of up to $500 on public cannabis consumption. Gov. Hogan vetoed the bill in May 2015, after it was approved 32-13 in the Senate and 83-53 in the House of Delegates.
Maryland adopted a law in 2014 that was intended to decriminalize simple marijuana possession, but it did not include marijuana paraphernalia.
The work is not over, however. Until cannabis is legal and regulated for adults, Marylanders who choose to consume a substance safer than alcohol will still be stigmatized as lawbreakers, racially biased enforcement of marijuana laws will continue to result in unequal justice, and the marijuana market will continue to be in the shadows.
Late Friday afternoon, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed SB 517 — a common-sense bill that would decriminalize marijuana paraphernalia. His veto is deeply disappointing. If we can garner votes from three-fifths of the House and three-fifths of the Senate, his veto will be overridden and the measure will become law.
If you are a Maryland resident, please email your state delegate(s) and senator today and urge them to override Gov. Hogan’s veto.
The Maryland General Assembly passed SB 517 to fix the current legal absurdity that makes possessing a small amount of marijuana a civil citation (like a traffic violation), but leaves possessing the container that marijuana is in a criminal violation. Without this fix, the door is left open to selective, biased enforcement, and Maryland would continue to divert valuable law enforcement time and effort that would be better spent protecting our communities from violent crime.
An override is within reach, but won’t be easy. It is crucial lawmakers hear their constituents want them to vote “yes” on an override!
Last month, the Maryland Legislature sent Gov. Larry Hogan (R) a bill to remove the criminal penalty for possession of marijuana paraphernalia. The time for Gov. Hogan to act on this bill is running out, so please email him today and encourage him to sign this reform into law.
By removing the criminal penalty for possessing marijuana paraphernalia, SB 517 will fix the current legal absurdity that makes possessing a small amount of marijuana a civil citation (like a traffic violation), but makes possessing the container that marijuana is in a criminal violation. Without this fix, the door is left open to selective, biased enforcement, which wastes law enforcement time and effort that would be better spent protecting our communities from violent crime.