Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones last week announced support for a referendum to legalize cannabis on the 2022 General Election ballot.
“While I have personal concerns about encouraging marijuana use, particularly among children and young adults, the disparate criminal justice impact leads me to believe that the voters should have a say in the future of legalization,” said Speaker Jones. “The House will pass legislation early next year to put this question before the voters but we need to start looking at changes needed to State law now.”
As of July, 2021, adult-use cannabis is legal 18 states and Washington D.C. Medical cannabis is legal in 37 states, including Maryland.
Virginia legalized cannabis through its legislature in April. The law took effect on July 1, but retail sales won’t begin in the state until 2024.
Speaker Jones also announced the creation of a Cannabis Workgroup to craft the implementation of an adult-use cannabis program in Maryland, should the voters approve the ballot question next November.
House Judiciary Chairman Luke Clippinger will chair the Workgroup.
“Cannabis use has had a disparate impact on people of color for too long with no real impact on public safety,” said Chairman Clippinger. “This Workgroup will establish the legal frameworks necessarily to fully implement legalization of marijuana and learn from the mistakes that other states have made before us. The Speaker has been clear that we will do this with an eye toward equity and consideration to Black and brown neighborhoods and businesses historically impacted by cannabis use.”
According to a press release:
The Workgroup will:
- Determine the regulatory, licensing and oversight structure of the production, sale and possession of legalized cannabis, including licensing application process, number of licenses, and equity in ownership of marijuana facilities
- Address expungement of previous convictions for cannabis and determine changes to existing criminal laws related to cannabis
- Identify the structure for potential release of those convicted solely of marijuana-related crimes , as well as dismissal of pending marijuana charges
- Review existing criminal and traffic laws related to marijuana including paraphernalia and cannabis accessories
- Structure equitable ownership in cannabis-related businesses
- Construct social equity programs to compensate communities impacted by over-incarceration for marijuana-related crimes
- Craft a taxation structure and revenue distribution from cannabis proceeds
- Expand addiction treatment programs and healthcare support for substance abuse
- Determine the impact to medical cannabis programs, other collateral rights and licenses
The Speaker appointed the following members of the Workgroup, as well as chairs of the subcommittees of the Workgroup:
- Majority Leader Eric Luedtke, who will chair Cannabis Taxation Subcommittee
- Minority Leader Jason Buckel
- Vice Chair Joseline Pena-Melnyk, who will chair Health Determinants Subcommittee
- Vice Chair Kathleen Dumais
- Legislative Black Caucus Chair Darryl Barnes
- Delegate C.T. Wilson, who will chair the Business Implementation Subcommittee
- Delegate David Moon, who will chair Criminal Justice Impacts Subcommittee
- Delegate Nicole Williams
- Delegate Robin Grammer
- Delegate Nic Kipke
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.