Maryland Democratic Gov. Hopeful Heather Mizeur’s first outlined a $280 million plan to fund pre-k for 4-year-olds and half-day daycare for 3-year-olds back in October. At the time, she didn’t say how she would pay for it. Now we know, and some of you are probably really going to like this:
Mizeur announced late yesterday that she plans to propose legalizing and taxing recreational cannabis to help fund the state’s pre-kindergarten initiative.
According to the Washington Post, Mizeur estimates up to $157.5 million in tax revenue annually for the state if they would just legalize the possessions of up an ounce of pot for adults 21 and up. Cultivation would not be allowed at home, but otherwise the plan is nearly identical to one passed in Colorado in November 2012.
“Marijuana laws ruin lives, are enforced with racial bias and distract law enforcement from serious and violent crimes,” Mizeur’s plan states. “A Maryland with legalized, regulated and taxed marijuana will mean safer communities, universal early childhood education and fewer citizens unnecessarily exposed to our criminal justice system.”
MIzeur plans to make the plan public later today.
Maryland hasn’t proven to be the most progressive in terms of marijuana policy in recent years and many say the Mizeur’s proposal would be a long shot – much like her candidacy against the current state Lt. Governor and Attorney General for the Democratic slot.
For example, the state passed a rather restrictive medical marijuana bill earlier this year, restricting the use of medical marijuana to very limited university-led trials. It doesn’t allow for personal cultivation or even possession, really. It’s so flimsy that most people don’t even consider Maryland to be a “medical marijuana state”.
But that tide could be shifting. A Goucher poll released earlier this month showed a majority of Maryland voters supporting legalizing marijuana use. And a study published last week shows that, like every other state in the country, minorities in Maryland are targeted for marijuana arrests far more than whites — details that can only help support the need for cannabis law reform.
Despite representing only 13 percent of the county, blacks in Hartford County Maryland are arrested at nearly twice the rate of whites according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. Hartford isn’t alone, either.
Blacks outnumber whites in cannabis arrests every single county in the state and Maryland has the highest arrest rate for marijuana in all 50 states.
Sara Love, director of the ACLU of Maryland, says that the study shows how marijuana is used as a “pretext to criminalizing communities of color” by law enforcement. She notes that police use tougher tactics in black communities and often marijuana is used as the catalyst and primary for an arrest of black youth.
“Police have to take a serious look at the way they are policing across the country,” Love tells the Baltimore Sun. “Violent crimes go unsolved, yet [police]make massive numbers of marijuana arrests. These people are not committing violent crimes.”
Community leader Jansen Robinson, who runs a local community council in a largely black part of Edgewood, said he wasn’t condoning crime. But questioned whether criminalizing kids for minor weed infractions doesn’t create a vicious cycle.
“When you apply for a job they look at your arrest records,” Robinson said. “If you can’t get a job because of a minor marijuana arrest, you’ll go back on the street and they commit more crimes to survive.”
Love says the study underscores the need for legalized, regulated cannabis sales.
Possession of 10 grams or less is misdemeanor in Maryland, with up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. More than ten grams up to 50 pounds is a misdemeanor with $1,000 in fines and a year in jail. Get caught with 50 pounds or less and the courts say you were dealing? That’s a 5-year felony with $15,000 in fines. Even paraphernalia can land you a year in Maryland.