Pot Smoking Gets a Huge Airing in Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS (WJZ)– Battle lines are drawn over the proposal to regulate and tax the drug as a revenue source for the state.

Political reporter Pat Warren reports on what the plan would do.

In addition to bringing in money it would settle a lot of concerns about how marijuana laws are applied and bypass the problems the state is having getting medical marijuana to patients.

“The problem has always been that cannabis never really belonged being illegal,” Barry Considine says.

Since 2011, Considine has been coming to Annapolis to change marijuana laws and buying the drug illegally for his multiple sclerosis.

“Can I legally do it, no. Would I want to be able to do it legally? Absolutely,” he says.

Under the plan the State would collect $30 an ounce excise tax from the cultivators and a 9 percent sales tax from buyers.

Half of the revenue is earmarked for schools, 25 percent for treatment and the rest for workforce development, and public education.

Adults 21 and older could lawfully possess up to an ounce and grow up to six plants. Prior convictions for possession of those amounts would be expunged.

There’s concern for lives ruined by arrests for simple possession.

“And the sooner we get this bill passed the sooner we can put a stop to that and allow these otherwise law abiding citizens to continue to be productive,” says Kate Bell of the Marijuana Policy Project.

And concern for public safety, including drug impaired drivers.

“AAA is obviously concerned before maryland or any other states considers legalizing recreational marijuana we should step back, take a pause and look at what is happening in other states,” says Ragina Averella of AAA Mid-Atlantic.

In 2014, possession of small amounts of marijuana was changed from a criminal to a civil offense. There’s a feeling now as as there was then, that things are changing.

Meanwhile another major issue is the way the medical marijuana licenses were issued. There are several bills about that. Baltimore County Senator James Brochin called it a big mess.

The hearing was expected to continue late into the evening.

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