Three Maryland lawmakers say they are crafting a bill that would legalize cannabis use and possession for adults 21 and up in an effort to curb illegal drug trafficking and funnel new tax dollars to schools and drug treatment programs.
The Marijuana Control Act of 2014 would also allow Marylanders to cultivate up to six plants at home.
State sen. Jamie Raskin, who is sponsoring the bill along with state Del. Curt Anderson, says Marlanders are ready for the bill and have recognized that the war on drugs is an expensive failure. She may be correct. In November, a statewide poll showed that 51 percent of voters agreed with taxing and regulating cannabis similarly to alcohol.
That said, the bill has a long road ahead. 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, which was strongly anti-ganja.
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. But Raskin says decriminalization isn’t the move the state needs to make, however.
“The problem with decriminalization is that it leaves in place the basic dynamics of criminal control over the supply of marijuana,” Raskin tells the Southern Maryland Headline News. “Our goal is to kick the drug dealers out of the state, and there is one way to do it, which is to regulate and tax marijuana – let the government take over the whole process.”
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley may be the largest hurdle, however. Earlier this month he told a local radio station in Maryland that he is “not much in favor” of marijuana legalization or even decriminalization.
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.