A decision on adult-use legalization in Maryland is one step closer to reaching voters in November after state lawmakers advanced legislation Feb. 23.
The early momentum comes on the heels of House leaders announcing earlier this month they wanted to first find out where voters stand on legalizing adult-use cannabis through a 2022 ballot initiative, before enacting legislation.
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On Wednesday, the House gave preliminary approval for the complementary measures.
Del. Luke Clippinger, a Democrat from Baltimore City who chairs the Judiciary Committee, sponsors House Bill 837, which he said would serve as companion legislation to House Bill 1, the ballot question for November’s election that he also drafted.
A final House vote could come Friday, The Associated Press reported, but the Maryland Senate would still need to approve it.
The proposal on the table would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and decriminalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces as a civil offense rather than a misdemeanor.
“Once they vote yes [in November], the House of Delegates will continue to augment the policy to create the best, most equitable path to legal recreational cannabis,” Clippinger wrote in a guest column for The Baltimore Sun on Feb. 3. “Too many people have already suffered the consequences of a misguided war on drugs. House Bill 837, together with House Bill 1, is a rapid but responsible approach to legal recreational cannabis.”
Although the House legislation advanced Wednesday in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, a proposed amendment that aimed to allow local municipalities to retain opt-in authority via their voters was rejected.
Del. Jason Buckel, an Allegany County Republican, expressed reservations about out-of-state consumers pouring into his western district, and other municipalities on state borders, to buy adult-use cannabis, the AP reported.
“Our considerations of each individual county are different, and we just ask you to respect that,” he said.
In addition to the House’s reform effort, Sen. Brian Feldman, a Democrat from Montgomery, is sponsoring an adult-use bill in the upper chamber that aims to legalize cannabis on or after July 1, 2023.