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Voters lean toward legal marijuana in WYPR/Banner poll

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Maryland voters favored legalizing adult use of recreational marijuana and delisting criminal records for marijuana use and possession, according to a Goucher College poll in partnership with WYPR and Baltimore banner. About 59% of adults surveyed in early September said they would vote in favor of legalizing marijuana consumers age 21 or older. About 34% said they were against it and only 7% said they were undecided or did not know how to vote.

If the referendum is approved, people under 21 years of age or older will be allowed to own 1.5 ounces of marijuana and grow two plants.

Marijuana dispensaries in Maryland have been for medical card patients only since 2014 when the General Assembly approved the medical use of marijuana. In 2014, Maryland decriminalized marijuana possession and anyone caught in possession of 10 fines or less faces a $100 fine for the first offense.

About 62% of survey respondents said that people with criminal records related to marijuana use and possession should be able to clear their records if recreational marijuana becomes legal. 29% opposed this measure, 8% did not decide, and 1% refused to answer the question.

A voter referendum will allow the general public to purchase marijuana after July 1, 2023.

Supporters of the measure say it could be a boon to the country’s economy.

“Just like alcohol and tobacco, I don’t see any problem with an adult choosing to do this,” said Ian Mayo, a Democrat in Howard County. “It would bring in more tax revenue and there would be much less illegal drug activity if they were sold legally. I think that would be an overall improvement.”

State records show that Maryland dispensaries statewide generated between $42 million and $48 million in medical marijuana sales each month in 2021.

Nineteen states already allow the sale of recreational marijuana. A recent survey found that twelve of those countries have brought $3 billion in combined tax revenue In 2021, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy organization focused on changing cannabis laws. The other seven states were not taken into account because they were not willing to sell recreational marijuana at the time of the study.

In June, an economic researcher warned that legalizing marijuana isn’t just a profitable cow for state coffers.

John Hodak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a public policy think-tank, told House and Senate Joint House and Senate legislators of the Maryland Senate’s Legalization Working Group that the market could be unbalanced if taxes were too high. This can drive consumers onto the streets or even encourage trafficking across state lines, which is illegal.

He also noted that Maryland needs to consider how to equitably distribute sales licenses if the referendum is passed.

Not everyone wants recreational marijuana in Maryland to become the law of the land.

Jim Marshall, independent Howard County, said he plans to vote against the referendum.

“It’s a process of extracting money for the government, it’s another source of income through taxes,” Marshall told WYPR.

The 52-year-old said he’s more concerned about how recreational marijuana works.

“I think this is dangerous,” he said. “I also have some significant concerns about someone being able to operate a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.”

Kristen Mossbroker and Rachel Bay contributed to the report.

Grow guide for marijuana beginners.

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