Maryland won't be legalizing cannabis for adult use any time soon, according to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who called cannabis a gateway drug yesterday in a radio interview.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.
"I'm not much in favor of it," O'Malley told WEAA's "Anapolis Summit" program. "I've seen what drug addiction has done to the people of our state and the people of [Baltimore]."
Many expect that the legislature will still take up the issue of decriminalizing marijuana this session, however.
The movement has at least one big supporter in the state Senate, with Senate President Thomas Miller giving a big thumbs-up legislation similar to Colorado's newly-enacted recreational cannabis laws that legalized possession and use of up to an ounce of herb (as well as legalized sales) for adults 21 and up.
Miller, however, is realistic about the actual chances. He told the Washington Post that O'malley is "always slow on issues like this".
And that's based on recent history, no doubt. Last year, state Del. Curt Anderson proposed House Bill 1453, which would have nullified pot penalties for up to an ounce of herb and legalized sales for adults 21 and up. The bill failed to get out of the House Judiciary. They didn't even give it the time of day; it died because nobody took action before the bill's deadline was up.
The state Senate did pass a decriminalization bill last year that would have made possession of an ounce of marijuana a civil penalty with a fine of no more than $100, but it failed to gain approval in the House. The proposed law is expected to resurface this year, and the House may be more receptive. House Speaker Michael Bush, a Democrat from Anne Arundel, says there is likely more approval for decriminalizing herb this year.
"I think there's a good argument for that, or at least a viable argument for that," Busch told WEAA after O'Malley's interview.
And so to Marylanders. According to a poll from the ACLU and the Marijuana Policy Project, 53 percent of voters in that state would support a measure similar to Colorado's that taxes and regulates cannabis sales and production while legalizing sales and possession for adults 21 and up.
Though adult recreational use seems to be off the table for him, O'Malley did hint that the legislature should revisit and streamline the state's extremely restrictive medical marijuana program. The law, passed last year, creates an academic-based medical marijuana program where a limited number of patients can sign up at a limited number of academic medical centers for a limited amount of herb. The program hasn't even started.
Currently in Maryland, possession of less than ten grams of pot could get you up to three months in jail and up to $500 in fines. More than that, and you're looking at a possible year in jail and $1,000 in fines. If the cops say you had pot with the intent to distribute, you could be facing felony charges with up to 5 years in jail and $15,000 in fines.