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.
Tuesday’s primary elections brought in a wave of Democratic gubernatorial candidates who’ve endorsed marijuana legalization—from Maryland to Colorado.
Here’s a breakdown of where the gubernatorial primary winners stand on cannabis.
Democratic winner: Ben Jealous, former NAACP president
Jealous campaigned as a progressive, pro-legalization candidate for governor, earning him the endorsements of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), among others. He spoke to Marijuana Moment earlier this month about how comedian Dave Chappelle first put the idea of legalization in his head—and how his stance on cannabis reform further evolved after studying racial disparities in marijuana enforcement as well as the economic potential of full legalization. Jealous told Marijuana Moment that, if elected governor, he would use tax revenue from a legal cannabis retail system to fund universal pre-k education throughout Maryland.
“We know that we have to end mass incarceration—and yet go further,” he said. “We have to really get back to opening up the gates of opportunity for all of our children. And by legalizing cannabis, we get to make progress on both fronts.”
Every single Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Maryland backed legalization during the primary, The Baltimore Sun reported, but Jealous seemed to focus on it more than most other major contenders.
Republican winner: Larry Hogan, incumbent governor
Hogan hasn’t taken an official stance on full marijuana legalization and, notably, declined to respond to a question about whether he felt voters should be entrusted to make that decision as part of a state referendum last year.
Just ahead of the primary election this week, however, Hogan said that “[a]t this point, I think it’s worth taking a look at” in reference to full legalization.
“I was for medical cannabis. I want to make sure we’re off to the right start and we look at every aspect of the issue.”
The governor signed a bill last month that expanded Maryland’s medical marijuana program. The legislation called for increased licenses for cannabis processors and growers; it was also designed to resolve the lack of diversity among individuals and businesses that receive these licenses.
Democratic winner: Jared Polis, U.S. representative
The sitting congressman has made a concerted effort to distinguish his support for marijuana reform from his competitors as well as the state’s incumbent Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper. He emphasized the need to protect the state’s recreational cannabis program from federal interference in an interview with Marijuana Moment, saying that, as governor, he “would make sure that we would not cooperate from the state-level and that state law enforcement resources were not used and information was not shared with any federal agent going after a legal, constitutionally protected Colorado activity.”
Polis, who has consistently championed cannabis bills and amendments in Congress, also vowed to approve legislation that would facilitate investments in the state’s marijuana program and expand the list of conditions that qualify patients for medical cannabis to include those on the autism spectrum—measures that Hickenlooper recently vetoed, much to the chagrin of legalization advocates.
The nominee has argued that the state’s regulated marijuana program provides valuable economic resources and that cannabis may serve as a viable alternative to dangerous and addictive opioids for pain patients.
Pro-legalization advocacy group, NORML endorsed Polis in May.
“The results from the Democratic Gubernatorial Primary are not just a victory for Jared Polis and supporters of sensible marijuana policy, they are a victory for anyone who believes that our prohibition on marijuana was a failure and that states should be free to set their own policies when it comes to cannabis, free from federal incursion,” NORML PAC executive director Erik Altieri said in a press release on Tuesday.
“Jared Polis has been the preeminent champion for ending our nation’s failed federal prohibition on marijuana while in Congress and an unrelenting force in standing up for Colorado’s legalization and medical marijuana laws. Just as he has always stood and fought by our side against federal prohibition, we will continue to fight for Jared Polis until he takes his rightful place in the governor’s mansion.”
Republican winner: Walker Stapleton, Colorado treasurer
Stapleton hasn’t gone on the record fully embracing the state’s recreational marijuana program, but he stood out among his Republican gubernatorial competition by disagreeing with the notion of advancing an agenda to repeal Colorado’s legal marijuana law, Amendment 64. He’s also acknowledged marijuana’s medical benefits.
“There have been a lot of unintended consequences that have come with legalization of marijuana,” Stapleton told Westword. “I don’t think a repeal is a realistic option, so as governor, I will work with the industry and stakeholder groups to make this work.”
“We need to have better guardrails in place to keep it out of the hands of children and to address some of the unintended consequences we have seen develop,” he said.
Democratic winner: Drew Edmondson, former Oklahoma attorney general
The former state attorney general said that he supported earlier legislation that reduced criminal penalties for marijuana possession and said he would also support State Question 788—an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma that passed on Tuesday.
However, Edmondson stopped short of embracing full legalization. He told Tulsa World that he believes “it is too early for full legalization in Oklahoma, but we do have the benefit of observing the long-term effects in Colorado and other states.”
Republican winner: Mick Cornett, Oklahoma City mayor
Cornett hasn’t said much about his personal views about marijuana reform on the record, but a spokesperson for the mayor told The Associated Press that “[o]ne of the strengths of Oklahomans is their willingness to help people,” in reference to a bill to legalize medical cannabis in the state, which passed on Tuesday.
“If this ballot measure can help Oklahomans, it is likely to pass.”
Cornett’s Republican competitor, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, was decidedly opposed to the legalization initiative, arguing that it was “poorly written and will create a host of societal problems.”
Republican winner: Henry McMaster, incumbent governor
Last year, McMaster, who won a runoff election on Tuesday night, said flatly that he believed it was “a bad idea to legalize marijuana” and that he doesn’t “think it’s healthy.”
It was unclear whether the governor was describing his stance on full, adult-use legalizationor if he considered medical cannabis reform an exception, however.
South Carolina Rep. James Smith (D), who became the Democratic gubernatorial primary nominee earlier this month, said he supported medical cannabis and co-sponsored a piece of legislation to legalize a medical program.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Voters In Two States Nominate Marijuana Legalization Supporters for Governor
This week, the Maryland Medicinal Cannabis Commission (MMCC) approved its first licensed dispensary, but sales won’t begin for months.
As of now, qualified patients are able to place orders with the dispensary, The Wellness Institute of Maryland. “We are fully equipped to deliver medicine as soon as we have it,” said owner Michael Kline.
The delay in the production of medical cannabis is part of a series of blunders by the MMCC. It took the commission four years to award its first grower’s license, with another fourteen in the pre-approval stage. Accusations of racism against the commission led to lawsuits that temporarily halted the licensing process, after it was discovered that all fifteen of the cultivation licenses were awarded to white business owners. Eventually, the licensing process was allowed to continue, and ForwardGro was awarded the first license. They are expected to have their first crop ready by September.
Although growers are needed to meet the demand of Maryland patients, delays by the MMCC continue. Curio Wellness also applied for a cultivation license, but has received the runaround from the MMCC, who claimed Curio had not met a request for supplementary documentation.
Our state of the art facility is ready,” said Michael Bronfein, CEO of Curio Wellness.
“Every day the commission fails to provide our stage two license delays patients access to safe, reliable, and effective medicine.”
He added that Curio had already passed their state inspection last month.
In states with a regulated medical cannabis industry like Maryland, licenses for cultivation, processing, distribution and sales represent millions of dollars worth of business. Maryland state law stipulates that applicants have one calendar year to complete the approval process, for many applicants, that deadline is less than six weeks away. “The clock is ticking,” said Patrick Jameson, executive director of the MMCC. Jameson mentioned that the commission will convene more frequently in the coming weeks in order to speed up the process.
But this hasn’t satisfied patients and state officials. Some have called for a complete overhaul of the MMCC, and have even proposed replacing all members of the commission.
Almost 9000 patients have applied to the state’s medical cannabis program. Since state law allows licensed medical cannabis patients from other states to make purchases in Maryland, many more customers are expected. But less than 2 percent of physicians in the state have applied to recommend medical cannabis. In response, the state moved to allow other medical professionals to participate, such as dentists and nurse practitioners. About twenty of those professionals have applied.
Unlike other dispensaries, The Wellness Institute of Maryland will have more of a clinical setup, rather than a retail environment, where patients can consult with experts in an effort to support those who may have reservations about medical cannabis.”Many, if not most people, won’t be interested in our model,” said Kline. “They would like to go in like it’s a strip mall or a 7-Eleven.” Kline says his company is prepared to handle obstacle the commission may have between now and September.
After a lawsuit put a halt to licensing by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC), a judge has ordered that commission can now continue.
Alan Rifkin, an attorney representing 13 of the companies who received the preliminary approval stated,
“We are gratified by the Court’s swift disposition of the restraining order, thus allowing this critically important public health program to proceed.”
The lawsuit was filed by Alternative Medicine, who was not awarded a license, and they are alleging that the MMCC did not take ethnic diversity into account when selecting candidates. A judge had agreed to a temporary restraining order that suspended all licensing activities by the commission “on the grounds that irreparable harm will result to plaintiff in the form of loss of ability, once all licenses are issued.” A renewal of that restraining order was denied last Friday. Furthermore, the court will be hearing from those who were awarded licenses, which was requested by those companies who received preliminary licensing approval.
“The commission would be unwise to issue growers’ licenses, given that we remain fully confident that we will succeed on the merits under any circumstances, thereby invalidating the medical cannabis licensing process as it was conducted contrary to the law,” said Brian Brown, the attorney representing Alternative Medicine.
Of the 15 candidates who received preliminary approval, only one license has been awarded. It took four years for ForwardGro to receive official approval from the commission.
The MMCC is the lead agency of a new medical marijuana program that has been fraught with controversy. Under the state’s program, the commission is required to “actively seek to achieve racial, ethnic and geographic diversity when licensing medical cannabis growers.” But when the preliminary licenses were announced, it appeared that the highly-coveted grower’s licenses were awarded to white business owners. Governor Larry Hogan responded to the commission with a plea for racial diversity, after a failed attempt by the State General Assembly to mandate a certain number of licenses be granted to minority-owned cannabis growers. Members of the Black Caucus also attempted to shut down the commission start over with a fresh group of members, but was also unsuccessful.
The lack of diversity that is the basis of Alternative Medicine’s lawsuit could lead to a review of the MMCC’s board. Cheverly Police Chief Harry “Buddy” Robshaw III, a member of the MMCC who leads the subcommittee that awards licenses, has been the target of several lawsuits that include everything from wrongful termination to sexual assault and racial profiling. According to one such lawsuit, a former police officer claimed Robshaw said to members of the force,“if there is more than one black person in a car there is marijuana present and they should investigate.”
The MMCC has previously declined to reveal how they rated and selected applicants, and the lack of transparency drew criticism from lawmakers. A spokesperson for the MMCC said that it is “committed to ensuring that qualifying patients, the sick and suffering of Maryland, are provided with a process to receive the most safe and effective medicine in the timeliest manner possible.”
Should Felons Be Allowed In Legal Cannabis Industries?
There are many states who have legalized cannabis, either medicinally or recreationally, that outlaw felons from participating in the industry.
When states outlaw the participation of felons in their cannabis industries, it’s important to understand who exactly they are keeping out. In order to understand this, we need to look at some of the underlying trends of drug incarceration in America.
Cannabis has long been a vehicle to incarcerate citizens, specifically those that are black, brown and poor. Despite white Americans self-reporting drug use at a higher rate than African Americans and Latinos, the latter two communities bear the brunt of drug arrests.
According to a study done by the American Civil Liberties Union released in 2013, African Americans made up 14% of the U.S. population, but constituted more than 36% of all arrests for weed, mostly for possession charges.
A report by New Frontier Data and Drug Policy Alliance explored the incarceration rates for cannabis in California ahead of the Amendment 64 vote that legalized Adult Use.
The report notes,
“Only 8% of Los Angeles County residents are black, yet they make up 30% of people jailed for marijuana only offenses in the county. Comparatively, Latinos account for nearly half (49%) of the county’s population, but make up 42% of those jailed, and whites are 27% of the population, but make up 20% of the jailed population.”
So in a world where over half of the country has legalized medicinal or Adult Use cannabis, creating a multi-billion dollar industry, what happens to those incarcerated for the same plant? How do we include those who had their lives destroyed by cannabis prohibition into the new legal market?
Many states are starting to see the sense in providing some sort of reparation to those formerly incarcerated for a drug that is now legal, and making a lot of people rich, in their states. Massachusetts was the first state to include some sort of provision for those who have been affected most by cannabis prohibition and enforcement, making sure these people would be able to participate in their state’s new legal industry.
Other states followed suit. Ohio set aside 15 cannabis licenses for minority businesses in their law; Pennsylvania required cannabis license applicants to outline their process for including minorities in their businesses.
Some states are trying, but fall embarrassingly short of the mark. Maryland tried to pass a bill to ensure minorities were represented within their new legal industry, but that bill was not actually acted upon. Not a single minority applicant was granted one of their 15 licenses. Because of this, multiple lawsuits have been filed against the Maryland Medicinal Cannabis Commission (MMCC), and former police chief and member of the MMCC, Harry Robshaw III, is being accused of exercising “overt racism” in the selection process.
Cities within states outlawing felons have also decided to act.
Oakland, a city in California historically overly-targeted by the War On Drugs, is working to make sure those who were jailed for cannabis are included in California’s new industry. Oakland has guaranteed half of their city’s cannabis licenses will be “Equity Licenses” reserved for those who have been convicted of a marijuana charge.
The damage done, and still being done, by the War On Drugs is no secret. Instead of declining, we have only seen drug use zoom upwards. Instead of rehabilitating drug addicts, we now have a full-on Opioid Epidemic in our country and private prisons at capacity, with 2.3 million Americans locked inside.
Allowing former “marijuana felons” into the legal cannabis industry helps repair some of that damage. For those who have carried the burden of a felony marijuana charge brought on them by their state, and are now seeing the same plant make a lot of people rich, reparations are due.
It’s up to those in the cannabis industry and writing cannabis law to fight for their inclusion.