This November, Maryland voters will decide the passage of the Marijuana Legalization Amendment through a referendum – Question 4.
According to a poll conducted by Goucher College in March, most Marylanders across all major political party affiliations support legalization. Sixty-five percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents, and 54 percent of Republicans support the legalization of recreational marijuana.
The Washington Post and the University of Maryland found in a poll conducted in September that nearly three out of four registered voters support marijuana legalization, signaling the legislation is likely to pass.
If Question 4 is passed, a new amendment will legalize the possession, use, and private growing of marijuana for Marylanders over 21 beginning July 1, 2023. It would also require the General Assembly to begin work on legislation regarding the regulation, distribution, and taxation of cannabis in the state. During this period, the sale of marijuana will remain illegal.
The law would additionally create a community reinvestment, and repair fund to dedicate at least 30 percent of revenues from adult-use cannabis to communities deemed most impacted by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition.
Currently, in Maryland, marijuana is legal for medicinal use. Possession of fewer than ten grams for recreational use is decriminalized.
If Question 4 is passed, Maryland would be the 20th state to legalize recreational marijuana in the United States.
In Maryland, delegates are looking to the 19 states that have legalized recreational marijuana use for guidelines on implementing a cannabis system that prioritizes revenue, equity, and access, according to a discussion by the House Cannabis Referendum and Legalization Workgroup in June.
This Maryland General Assembly committee is in charge of drafting regulations for a legal cannabis market should the referendum pass in November.
House Bill 837, which would go into full effect if the referendum passes, outlines provisions for possession amounts. Possessing up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana or 10 grams of marijuana concentrate would immediately be decriminalized after the bill is passed. After June 30, 2023, possession of these amounts would become completely legal.
The bill would also immediately expunge charges across the state and allow those incarcerated for simple possession to be resentenced.
In addition to these provisions, the committee will conduct studies about the public health impacts of legalized marijuana, such as drug addiction, advertising, and youth drug use.
The committee aims to complete drafting commercial regulations by 2023, said committee Chair Luke Clippinger. Recreational dispensaries could open as soon as 2024.
During the June committee meeting, Dr. John Hudak, deputy director at the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution, touted states like Colorado as models for marijuana legalization.
“In terms of setting up a pretty tightly regulated system with seed-to-sale tracking, relatively reasonable tax rates … Colorado has done a pretty good job, even though they were first out of the gate,” Hudak said.
The latter goal often includes ensuring prices match those found in illicit sales and strategically placing dispensaries at easy-to-access locations based on population density.
Hudak said that Colorado’s model lacked a system that fostered and maintained equity. States like Illinois and Massachusetts have seen more success, allowing for a more effective criminal justice system and widening opportunities for smaller, minority-owned cannabis businesses.
Hudak said that states like New York, Virginia, and Connecticut have established much more robust guidelines for equity, though these innovative provisions are too new to gauge.
“I can’t say those three will be successful, but if they are, I think they’re gonna be models of equity programs in the United States moving forward,” Hudak said.
This article was originally published on CNSMaryland.org and republished with permission.