Maryland Marijuana Legalization Hearing Today in Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, MD – State lawmakers will host a hearing today on the first-ever bill to make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older in Maryland, and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed like alcohol.

If passed, House Bill 1453, sponsored by Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore City), would make the private possession and home-cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older.

The bill would also direct the Maryland Comptroller to license marijuana retail stores, wholesale facilities, and testing facilities, and direct the Department of Agriculture to regulate the legal cultivation of industrial hemp.

Recreational marijuana would be subject to an excise tax of $50 per ounce on wholesale sales, in addition to standard state sales taxes paid by consumers. Tax revenue would go to fund treatment programs to prevent alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse.

The bill allows cities and towns the right to regulate marijuana businesses, and it would remain illegal to use marijuana in public or drive under the influence of marijuana.

Members of the House Committee on the Judiciary are expected to hear testimony on the bill at 1:00 pm today.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) will be among a number of advocacy groups in Annapolis to testify in favor of House Bill 1453, which seeks to legalize and regulate adult marijuana consumption in Maryland.

“It is time for Maryland lawmakers to give serious consideration to this proposal,” says NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre, who will be testifying at the hearing. “Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition and replacing it with regulation.”

“Despite more than 70 years of federal marijuana prohibition, Americans’ consumption of and demand for cannabis is here to stay. It is time for state lawmakers to acknowledge this reality,” St. Pierre continued. “It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to untaxed criminal enterprises and it is time for lawmakers to impose common-sense regulations governing cannabis’ personal use by adults and licensing its production. A pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for limited, licensed production and sale of cannabis to adults – but restricts use among young people – best reduces the risks associated with its use or abuse.”

“Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is far less harmful than alcohol for the consumer and the surrounding community,” said Dan Riffle, a former prosecutor now serving as deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It is less toxic, less addictive, and, unlike alcohol, does not contribute to violent crimes and reckless behavior.”

Yesterday, members of the Senate were expected to vote on a separate bill, SB 297, that would decriminalize possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana. That vote has been postponed, but is expected sometime this week.

Maryland is one of ten states that is debating legislation to legalize cannabis use this year.  Nearly a dozen states are also considering decriminalization measures.

Last November, voters in Colorado and Washington State approved measures making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and directing state regulatory bodies to create regulations for businesses to cultivate and sell marijuana to adults.

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