Majority of Maryland Voters Want Legal Cannabis

Majority of Maryland Voters Want Legal Cannabis

The majority of Maryland voters support legalizing recreational cannabis, according to the most recent Goucher Poll.

Conducted in an effort to understand where residents stand on several policy issues that are currently being examined by the Maryland General Assembly, the poll determined that 57 percent of voters support the full legalization of cannabis. This leaves only 37 percent in opposition.

Nearly 70 percent of residents under the age of 35 reported being in favor of legal marijuana, and 66 percent of respondents who identify as political independents also support legalization. Those over the age of 55 and those who identify as conservative or Republican were the least likely to support legalization, according to the poll.

This poll from Goucher College was conducted from February 7th through the 12th. A small sample, it surveyed 808 adults and the reported margin of error is +/- 3.4 percent.

The Road To Legalization

In the past, recreational cannabis is an issue that has not gained much traction in the Maryland General Assembly, but this year may be different as the majority of constituents are in favor. In the first week of February 2019, proposals to legalize marijuana for adults in Maryland were submitted in both the Senate and the House. The House hearing is scheduled for March 6, and the hearing in the Senate is scheduled for February 26,

Medical marijuana has been legal in the Old Line State since 2012. Establishing the framework for the retail market proved to be a challenge, however, as dispensaries were not licensed until 2016, and the program did not become fully operational until December of 2017. A bill to expand the program to allow edible forms of medical marijuana like brownies and tinctures is currently being considered this legislative session.
Possession of 10 or fewer grams of cannabis has been only a civil infraction in Maryland for almost five years. In April of 2014, Governor Martin O’Malley signed the bill into law that decriminalized personal possession. Most recently in January 2019, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby declared that marijuana possession arrests will no longer be prosecuted in Baltimore.

Maryland Decriminalization Now In Effect

Maryland Decriminalization Now In Effect

Today Maryland residents will no longer be hauled off to jail for simple marijuana possession charges. Senate Bill 346 was signed back in April and officially went in to effect today. The bill makes a substantial difference in Maryland’s marijuana laws, making possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana punishable only by fines.

The civil fines are similar to a traffic violation where the first offense results in a $100 fine, the second increases to $250, and all following citations result in $500 fines along with clinical assessments and drug education programs. The civil infraction of possessing marijuana is not permanently stamped on your criminal record like it has been in the past. Before Bill 346 went into effect, simple possession punishable by up to a hefty 90 days in jail.

Senator Bob Zirkin (D) spearheaded the bill with hopes that the state will be able to use tax dollars more effectively. “A colossal waste of resources can be better spent on drug treatment and drug education,” Zirkin remarked. “It’s a recognition that what we’re doing right now has not worked,” said Zirkin. It’s refreshing to hear this sentiment from state Senators, but a shame that over 30 Billion dollars had to be spent on the drug war before our elected officials were able to admit it’s ineffectiveness.

maryland-governor

Even Maryland’s governor, Martin O’Malley, expressed his progressive views saying, “Decriminalizing possession of marijuana is an acknowledgement of the low priority our courts, prosecutors, & police attach to this issue.” With less time spent on making marijuana users into lifelong criminals, Maryland law enforcement should now be able to focus on violent crimes.

photo credit: Politico

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