Md. Lawmakers Move Forward On Marijuana Bills

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)–Despite a negative reception from Gov. Martin O’Malley, lawmakers are moving forward on bills to stop arresting people for small amounts of marijuana.

Political reporter Pat Warren has more on the testimony.

There are two bills: marijuana legal and marijuana light. One bill reduces possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to a ticket and a fine. The other makes it legal for adults 21 and older, with state regulation and taxes. That’s the one supporters really like.

“If we legalize marijuana, we take out the whole black market aspect,” said Ryan Record, supporter.

“What’s really the gateway, truly the gateway? Alcohol, and that’s legal and that’s not right,” said John Shook, supporter.

The arguments in favor of legalization center around the failure of prohibition.

“We have criminalized and demonized tens of thousands of our fellow Marylanders and yet we have not put a dent into the demand for the drug,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin, (D)-Montgomery.

“I’m a certified addictions counselor, and I believe I have never seen one of my clients die from an overdose of marijuana yet,” said Tiffany Thompson, supporter.

But opponents think it’s playing fast and loose with drug prevention programs.

“We believe it sends a horrible message to our kids who otherwise have been told consistently that marijuana is dangerous,” said Chief Mike Pristoop, Maryland Chiefs of Police Association.

But state regulated and taxed, legalization would take the profits away from illegal dealers and reportedly raise an estimated $100 million to $130 million for the state—more than what the state is paying to prosecute for possession.

“From students I’ve talked to in Howard County they have a much easier time finding marijuana than they do getting beer,” said Sen. Allen Kittleman (R)-Howard.

Sponsors of the bill to write tickets for possession think it has a better chance of passing this session.

O’Malley has said it’s still an evolving issue for him, but it is highly unlikely that he would sign a bill to legalize it.

A recent poll by the ACLU of Maryland and the Marijuana Policy Project found that a majority of Maryland voters support regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol.

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