With at least five competing cannabis legalization bills in the making in Maryland, the state Senate speaker on Friday is on how he’d like to see lawmakers progress through the remaining weeks of the legislative session.
Last week, the House of Delegates passed legislation that would do just that Ask voters if cannabis use for adults should be legalized in the state, plus a separate bill outlining relevant criminal justice reforms. On the Senate side, two competing proposals have been presented and are pending in the committee: one that would legalize cannabis directly later this year as well as another voter referendum that includes a more comprehensive regulatory scheme than detailed in the plan approved by the House.
Senate Funding Both proposals were considered by the Senate earlier this week But they did not vote on either law.
At a news conference Friday, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D) took questions from reporters about the competing plans. He said that if lawmakers decide to go ahead with a polling federation, they owe voters a better idea of what the new system will look like than his colleagues in the other room did.
“It wouldn’t be my first choice,” Ferguson said of bringing the proposed constitutional amendment to voters. But what is the most important? [is] If he goes to the voters, they need to know what they are voting for. They should have an idea of what the framework will look like.”
Are we protecting public health? Asked. “Do we make sure that we end the war on drugs, which has been so devastating to societies, and do it in a way that if an industry moves forward, there is a fair opportunity to participate in the market?
“I think we can get there this year,” he continued.
Maryland’s legislative session is scheduled to end on April 11.
Ferguson said last year he believed lawmakers The polling step must be skipped entirely and cannabis legalized by law. But he indicated at a news event on Friday that he would welcome the idea of a constitutional amendment approved by voters.
Ferguson said he believes all sides in the debate over which path to take “have shown a commitment to compromise and get there”.
He explained that the Senate “feels comfortable” to move forward with legalization without resorting to a referendum, “but we are open to the conversation because we respect the other chamber and the position of the other chamber, and we’ll see where we reach the end of the session.”
House Speaker Adrian Jones (D), who A legalization working group was formed last summer to study the issueHe said the decision should be left to Maryland residents.
Jones said last year that although she has “personal concerns about promoting marijuana use, particularly among children and young adults, the disparate impact of criminal justice leads me to believe that voters should have a say in the future of legalization.”
Both pending Senate bills include far more detail than House bills, HB 1 And the HP 837On how the state regulates the new commercial cannabis industry. SB 833, sponsored by Senator Brian J. By contrast, the House plan leaves nearly all the wrinkles to be ironed out later, if voters agree to a basic policy change.
Under constitutional amendments proposed by the House and Senate, the legalization would not take effect until July 2023. If passed, the amendment would not require the signature of Republican Governor Larry Hogan. Hogan did not support legalization but did He indicated that he might be open to considering the idea.
Senate bill, SB 692, by Senator Jill Carter (Democrat), focuses primarily on repairing the damages of the drug war. It would legalize cannabis sooner, in July of this year, and put more lenient restrictions on tenure and home farming. It will also ensure greater legal relief for people who have previous convictions related to cannabis.
“Enact. The Carter Act is the only one that sets a broad and critical framework for fixing the racial injustice caused by the war on drugs,” Elizabeth Hilliard, assistant attorney general and assistant director of the state’s Department of Government Relations at the Attorney General of Defense, said at this Senate Finance Committee hearing week, as members debated two Senate bills.
Feldman said he did not see the two bills as “incompatible” and thanked Carter for her cooperation. He indicated that he was interested in including some provisions of the Carter Act, such as authorizing previous cannabis convictions, in his proposal through future amendments.
Feldman’s last legislative session was lead author of a different legalization bill co-sponsored by Senate President Ferguson. The Senate Finance Committee held a Listen to this proposal last March, but in the end no vote was taken. This came after a judicial committee in the House of Representatives Listen to a separate proposal for cannabis in February.
Ferguson is not a listed sponsor of Feldman’s new proposal.
On the House side, Del Luke Kleiberger (D), a Democrat who sponsors the legalization bills that passed the Chamber, said last week that the House’s passage of the legislation marked “the beginning of an important process as we begin to look again at how we’ve tackled this substance, cannabis.”
A competing bill by the House of Representatives, HB 1342It was introduced by Del Gabriel Acevero (D) and a committee hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Maryland legalized medical marijuana through an act of the legislature in 2012. Two years later, the Decriminalization Act went into effect that replaced criminal penalties for possession of less than 10 fines with a civil fine ranging from $100 to $500. But since then, a number of efforts to further marijuana reform have failed.
Bill to Expand Decriminalization Possession Threshold to an Ounce Passed the House of Representatives in 2020 But it was not taken up in the Senate.
Also that year, the governor vetoed a bill that would be Protecting people with low convictions for cannabis use from having their records published in the state database. In a veto statement, he said the reason was the failure of lawmakers to pass a separate, non-cannabis-related measure aimed at tackling violent crime.
In 2017, Hogan declined to answer a question about whether voters should be able to decide on the problem, but by mid-2018 he signed a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana system and said full legalization was worth considering: “At this point he said in That time, I think it’s worth taking a look at.
As for Maryland legislators, 2019 House committee Held hearings on two bills that would legalize marijuana. While these proposals did not pass, they encouraged several reluctant lawmakers to begin seriously considering change.