ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A hot button issue is back in Annapolis–legalizing marijuana. Advocates are pushing to open the door to regulate pot, but some say not so fast.

Christie Ileto has the details.

Efforts to legalize marijuana have fallen short twice before, but with a new poll that shows more than half of Marylanders support the idea advocates are taking their chances.

New year, but same fight. It’s round three for the battle to legalize marijuana, and it’s playing out in Annapolis.

“Marijuana is not the kind of drug people think it is,” says Del. Curt Anderson.

Under federal law, marijuana is illegal, but advocates argue it doesn’t have to be in Maryland.

As of last October, possessing even the smallest amount of marijuana no longer comes with jail time, but a civil violation. So, was decriminalizing it enough?

“It’s a band-aid for a temporary resolution, like putting ointment on a gaping wound,” said Neill Franklin, LEAP.

Retired from Maryland State Police, Franklin is with the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

He argues that until pot is legalized, it will only continue to breed crime.

“When gangs in the business of selling marijuana try to solve issues, they do it on our street corners with guns and violence, coercion and kidnappings,” said Franklin.

But critics argue, legalizing it puts the substance in the wrong hands.

“If kids think it’s safe and harmless to do, they’re going to do more of it thus needing to work their way up the ladder with other drugs,” says Mike Gimbel, Substance Abuse Expert.

“I believe that the drug dealers are the gateway, I don’t believe marijuana itself is a gateway drug,” said Darrell Carrington, Executive Director of Maryland Cannabis Industry.

Still, advocates argue legalizing pot means regulation.

“We can help reduce teen usage, we can help bring down crime and help increase revenue to our state,” said Carrington.

At a time when Maryland is cash strapped.

So far this session, no bill has been introduced to legalize marijuana in Maryland, but lawmakers and some advocates are hoping that their counterparts in the Maryland General Assembly will warm up to the idea this session.

States that have legalized marijuana include Colorado and Washington.

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