Tax It! Maryland Lawmakers Try to Legalize Marijuana Again
On Thursday, three Maryland state Democrats – Delegates Curt Anderson and Sheila Hixson and Senator Jamie Raskin – will try again to legalize marijuana and to regulate and tax it like alcohol.
After Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana in 2012, lawmakers in Maryland failed to get a similar bill passed last year. Political analysts do not expect such a bill to be signed into law this year because Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is seen as a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and was a former mayor of Baltimore, has implied that though he may be in favor of allowing medicinal uses of marijuana, he would be against legalization of the drug.
“I’ve seen what drug addiction has done to the people of our state and the people of our city,” O’Malley said in a January radio interview.
According to a poll conducted by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling in September, 53% of voters in Maryland support regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol while 38% oppose.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) came out against legalization, saying on Wednesday that she did not support the decriminalization of marijuana like Kurt Schmoke, a previous mayor of Baltimore, had.
"I don't think it serves anybody's purpose to clog up the system with this type of offense, but I'm not going to be waving the Schmoke flag of legalization," she said, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Groups that want marijuana legalized and regulated have argued that, unlike alcohol, marijuana "does not cause overdose deaths and comes with far fewer long-term health consequences."
According to Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project, "a 2009 Canadian study determined the annual health-related costs associated with alcohol are more than eight times greater per user than with marijuana," while the Institute of Medicine found that "people who use marijuana are far less likely to become dependent than those who drink alcohol."
The proposed bill would "remove all criminal and civil penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and allow the personal cultivation of up to 6 marijuana plants by those over the age of 21." It would outlaw driving under the influence of marijuana and smoking it in public.
Members of the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland, which includes the ACLU of Maryland, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, will be at a press conference Thursday announcing the legislative effort.