Following the footsteps of Colorado, a pair of bills for the legalization, regularization and taxation of marijuana sale will be introduced this week by five Maryland legislators in the assembly. Members of the House of Delegates and state Senate of Montgomery County and Baltimore City are a part of this legislative committee and this is their third attempt in the last couple of years to push marijuana legalization.
William Smith, a state senator highlighted that the legislation is likely to keep a check and reduce marijuana possession-related arrests on racial grounds. “In Maryland, an African American is close to four times more likely to be stopped, pulled over, arrested, and ultimately convicted than a white counterpart despite equal usage rates, and that is something that cannot stand,” he added.
Moreover, this legalization may also boost revenue generation as the state is undergoing a budget constraint. Sen. Richard Madaleno stated that by adopting a sensible approach to cannabis use, states such as Colorado and Washington are reaping huge revenues, without facilitating an increase in criminal activities. Hence, Maryland should also follow suit.
He also added that the first bill would allow an individual, above 21 years of age, to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. Additionally, one can cultivate a maximum of six plants of marijuana at home. Any previous verdicts on the charges of growing or possessing the allowed amounts of marijuana will be dropped.
The second bill would allow the regularization of marijuana sale for recreational purposes. A $30 excise tax per ounce of marijuana, along with a nine percent state sales tax, which is same for alcohol, would also be levied. Revenues generated from the sale of legal marijuana would be used for addiction treatment, education, programs directed towards workforce development, and combating drunk driving.
In the year 2014, possession of small quantities of marijuana was legalized. Even though the bills intended for full legalization of marijuana failed to get legislated at the general assembly in the last three years, the legislators are confident that sooner than later the bills would pass since there has been a positive shift towards marijuana use. A medical marijuana program was also developed in the same year. However, the program is yet to be implemented.
Delegate Curt Anderson shared that around three years back, there were two or three sponsors available for the marijuana bill. This number rose to 10, two years back and last year, almost 27 to 30 sponsors for the cannabis bill were available. Anderson hopes to see around 40 marijuana sponsors this year which clearly reflects a growing trend towards marijuana acceptance and usage.
Should the bill pass through the legislature, Maryland would become the first mid-Atlantic state to legalize and sell marijuana for recreational use.
Though more and more states are opting for marijuana legalization, the fact that prolonged abuse of marijuana can result in its dependency, has made it imperative to educate people about the possible effects of the drug. Its long-term use does bring physical, cognitive and emotional changes and causes mental illnesses such as paranoia, hallucination, depression and anxiety.
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