Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 443-310-9946, email@example.com
Rachelle Yeung, Marijuana Policy Project, 202-905-2034, firstname.lastname@example.org
* Statements below from representatives of the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland*
ANNAPOLIS - A bill that would regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly earlier today. HB 911, the Marijuana Control and Revenue Act of 2015, sponsored by Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore City), would allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes.
The bill requires the Maryland Comptroller to establish rules and regulations for the operation of cultivation facilities, product manufacturers, retailers, and safety compliance labs. It also creates an oversight commission to monitor marijuana businesses and advise the comptroller on regulatory issues. The fiscal note for similar legislation proposed in 2014 estimated about $95.6 million per year in revenue from the $50/ounce excise taxes and about $39 million in new revenue from sales taxes. State expenditures would be exceeded through the estimated $1.995 to $3.985 million in yearly revenue in licensing fees from wholesalers, retailers, and safety compliance facilities.
A companion bill, SB 531, was introduced by Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) earlier this week.
Marijuana businesses would not be permitted to operate within 1,000 feet of a school, and localities would be able to enforce additional regulations. Using marijuana in public and driving under the influence would remain illegal. Currently in Maryland, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses.
Statement from Sara Love, public policy director for the ACLU of Maryland:
"The Marijuana Control and Revenue Act is the next step on the road to saner drug policy in Maryland. For too long, tens of thousands of Marylanders, disproportionately black Marylanders, have faced life-altering criminal penalties simply for possessing a substance most voters believe should be legalized. Now, our state has the opportunity to move beyond the tragic costs of the counterproductive ‘war on drugs' and toward increased revenue that can be used to support policies that strengthen communities."
Statement from Rachelle Yeung, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project:
"The focus in Maryland this year is clear: creating jobs, improving the economy, and balancing the budget. Legalizing marijuana, and taxing and regulating it like alcohol, would help accomplish all three. Colorado is experiencing one of the highest job creation rates in the country, and it's no secret that the burgeoning marijuana industry has been a factor. This bill would generate significant new revenue without increasing existing taxes and limit government intrusion into Marylanders' private lives. Marijuana is a substance objectively safer than alcohol, and it should be treated that way."
Statement from Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition:
"Not only is taxing and regulating marijuana the best way to keep marijuana out of the hands of kids, this sensible bill will allow police to focus on violent criminals rather than nonviolent drug offenders. It's good for public safety and good for Maryland."
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The Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland includes the ACLU of Maryland, African-American Democratic Club of Montgomery County, Baltimore County Young Democrats, Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition, CASA de Maryland, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Demand Progress, Equality Maryland, Harford County Young Democrats, International Women's Cannabis Coalition-Maryland Chapter, Job Opportunities Task Force, Labor Network for Sustainability, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, League of Women Voters of Maryland, Libertarian Party of Maryland, Marijuana Policy Project, Maryland Green Party, Maryland Justice Project, Maryland NORML, Maryland United for Peace and Justice, Maryland Working Families, Medical Cannabis Advocates of Maryland, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Montgomery County Young Democrats, Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, Our America Initiative, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 400, and Veterans for Peace, Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter.
Learn more at http://www.MarijuanaPolicyInMd.org.