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Maryland voters to decide on recreational marijuana legalization

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Voters in Maryland will decide on Election Day next November whether to legalize recreational marijuana.

A new advertising campaign led by retired Baltimore Ravens soccer player Eugene Monroe has been launched in support of the referendum, known as Question 4. It aims to persuade voters to support the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older.

“We will be clearing criminal records of Maryland residents who have been unfairly targeted for minor cannabis offenses,” the ad says.

Monroe is a partner with Green Thumb Industries, one of the largest owners of medical cannabis cultivation and dispensaries in the country.

The law will allow adults to own up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana and grow two marijuana plants. It will take effect in July. Pot selling would still be illegal in the state.

In Monroe’s announcement, voters were told that legalizing recreational use would boost the economy, create jobs, and divert tax money into education and public safety.

The Maryland Civil Liberties Union supported the legislation, saying the war on drugs had negatively affected people of color. Still, more blacks than whites are arrested, the group said, and blacks are arrested at higher rates in nearly every county in Maryland even though blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly the same rates.

The bill’s lead sponsor in the House of Delegates said thousands of people are arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana each year — many of them people of color.

“African Americans and Hispanics have been disproportionately arrested and convicted for these crimes,” Del Luc Kleiberger said.

Many Republicans voted against the referendum, with some saying it should be voted on by lawmakers rather than sent to voters directly. The General Assembly approved the legislation in its last session.

If passed, the legislature will address how marijuana is sold and taxed in the state next year.

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