ANNAPOLIS - State lawmakers launched an effort Thursday to pass a bill in this year's legislative session that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Maryland. Sen. Jamie Raskin, Del. Curt Anderson, and Del. Sheila Hixson were joined at a news conference by leaders of several state and national organizations, who announced the formation of a broad coalition in support of the forthcoming legislation.
The Marijuana Control Act of 2014 would make the personal use, possession, and limited home-growing of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older; establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol; and allow for the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp. A detailed summary of the bill is available at http://www.marijuanapolicyinmd.org/summary-for-both-the-house-and-senate-bill.
The new and expanding Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland includes the ACLU of Maryland, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, among others. A full list of coalition members is available at http://www.RegulateMarijuanaInMd.org.
A majority of Maryland voters (53%) support regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol, according to a survey conducted in late September by Public Policy Polling. Only 38% said they were opposed. The full results are available at http://www.mpp.org/MDpoll.
Statement from Sen. Jamie Raskin:
"Our experiment with marijuana prohibition has failed. We got ourselves out of alcohol prohibition by regulating and taxing the product, and we should employ the same exit strategy with marijuana. If we can regulate alcohol, we can regulate marijuana."
Statement from Del. Curt Anderson:
"We need to understand that arresting people for marijuana use can have devastating consequences for people's ability to get jobs, housing, and education. Those unnecessary and misguided consequences are being concentrated in communities of color, because even though marijuana use rates are the same, black Marylanders are disproportionately arrested for it."
Statement from Del. Sheila Hixson:
"Regulating and taxing marijuana makes economic sense. Revenues from adult marijuana sales would be reinvested in our communities rather than disappearing into the underground market. Why prop up drug cartels and gangs instead of licensed businesses that pay taxes and create jobs?"
Statement from Sara Love, public policy director for the ACLU of Maryland:
"Maryland spends too much time, energy, and money arresting people for marijuana possession - and it is disproportionately black Marylanders who are arrested, despite equal use rates among whites and blacks. The status quo is unacceptable, and thankfully a majority of voters agree."
Statement from Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition:
"Every minute a police officer spends arresting an adult for marijuana is a minute they cannot spend addressing other more serious crimes. It's no coincidence that the more marijuana arrests we've made over the past four decades, the fewer violent crimes we've solved."
Statement from Rachelle Yeung, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project:
"Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society, and that should be reflected in our laws. Marijuana prohibition has caused far more harm than marijuana itself. It's time to replace it with a more sensible, evidence-based policy."
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