legislators in Maryland He passed legislation over the weekend to regulate the production and sale of commercial cannabis after months of negotiations on issues including social justice and taxation. The bill, which clears the way for regulated recreational marijuana sales to begin July 1, is now headed to Democratic Gov. Wes Moore’s office.
Maryland Senate passed Bill with amendments on Friday by a vote of 30 to 12. The House of Delegates, which had originally approved the measure on March 10, approved the amended version of the legislation on Saturday by a vote of 104 to 35, and sent the bill to Moore for consideration. The governor, who has supported efforts to legalize adult cannabis use in Maryland, is expected to sign the bill into law, according to a report by Washington Post.
After the bill was passed, lawmakers said they drew on Maryland’s experience in legalizing the medical use of cannabis and regulatory efforts in other states to craft legislation to legalize the production and sale of recreational marijuana.
“We’ve been talking to our counterparts in other states saying, ‘If you had to do it again, what would you do differently? What do you wish you knew when preparing your program?’” Democratic Senator Meloni Griffith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said. he said at a press conference. “We have a lot of experience here in Maryland, with our medical cannabis program, and we’ve had tremendous success. So all of those components, if you will, have been put into our cannabis framework.”
In November, Maryland voters legalized recreational marijuana with the passage of Question 4, a state referendum that was approved by nearly two-thirds of the vote. The bill passed by the legislature on Saturday paves the way for legalization, allowing adults 21 and older to own up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to two cannabis plants at home, starting July 1.
Under the legislation, a new Regulations and Enforcement Division will be created within the existing state Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, which will be renamed the Alcohol, Tobacco and Cannabis Commission. The legislation includes provisions to direct the regulation of cannabis production and sale and places a 9% tax on recreational marijuana purchases.
Lawmakers are blocking a new amendment to further restrict dispensaries
Before the bill passed the House, Republican Delegate Wayne A. Hartman proposed an amendment that would increase the minimum mandatory distance separating cannabis dispensaries from 500 feet to one mile. The proposal would also have required that dispensaries be at least one mile from schools, parks, playgrounds, and libraries.
“So, we couldn’t put a dispensary anywhere in Ocean City because there isn’t a place within a mile between any of these things?” asked House Economic Matters boss CT Wilson.
Hartmann replied, “I can’t tell you that I am unhappy about it.”
But residents of Hartman County may feel differently, Wilson said, noting that voters approved the referendum to legalize adult cannabis use in Maryland by more than two-thirds of the statewide vote.
“They asked us to do it,” he said. They have asked us to do so in a fair and just manner. They’ve asked us to make sure they don’t put them all in one place and to make sure anyone who wants to buy has access.”
Social equality is a priority
To help promote equity in the cannabis industry and ownership by those adversely affected by marijuana prohibition, the first licenses granted in Maryland will be reserved for Social Justice applicants. To qualify, the applicant must own at least 65% of the property in an individual who has lived in a “disproportionately affected area” for five of the past ten years or attended public school in such an area. The bill also creates a new Office of Social Equity in the Cannabis Division to promote the participation of “people from communities previously disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs,” Wilson said At a committee hearing for the bill last month.
Brian Vicente, co-founder of the cannabis and drug law firm Vicente LLP, applauded the Maryland legislature’s approval of a bill legalizing the cannabis trade.
Vicente wrote in an email to High times. This law will increase the number of cannabis businesses, and the first round of new business owners will be social equity applicants. Since the state’s voters passed legalization close to 70%, it is not surprising that the Maryland legislature moved quickly to carry out the voter’s will. They are still on target to begin adult use sales by July 1st.”