Adult-use cannabis legalization appears to be on its way in Maryland, but now it’s a matter of which avenue is the best to get there.

Senate Finance Committee members entertained a pair Democratic-sponsored bills during a hearing March 3. Their considerations come on the heels of the Maryland House passing a companion bill package that would put a ballot question to voters in the November 2022 election, before the chamber’s lawmakers take up measures in complementary legislation

The House’s legalization bill, sponsored by Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore City Democrat, 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. It passed the chamber in a 92-37 vote on Feb. 25.

HED: Maryland House Advances Adult-Use Cannabis Measure

Meanwhile, Sen. Brian Feldman, a Montgomery County Democrat, is sponsoring Senate Bill 833, and Sen. Jill Carter, a Baltimore Democrat, is sponsoring S.B. 692, which propose different paths toward adult-use legalization in the upper chamber.

Both measures were discussed by Senate Finance Committee members during a hearing Thursday, but the body did not hold votes.

Feldman’s legislation would legalize up to 2 ounces of adult-use cannabis, 15 grams of concentrate or products containing no more than 1,500 milligrams of THC for possession and use by those 21 and older on or after July 1, 2023, according to Marijuana Policy Project. Also, the bill would alter provisions relating to penalties, charging procedures, expungement and sentences for certain cannabis offenses.

Much like the House’s package, Feldman’s legislation aims for electorate input, asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment on November’s ballot before a 2023 rollout.

That question would read: “Do you favor the legalization of adult-use cannabis in the state of Maryland that complies with a legal framework established by the Legislature to provide for limits on use amounts and the regulation and taxation of the market for the production and sale of cannabis in the state?”

Carter’s proposal, the Cannabis Legalization and Reparations for the War on Drugs Act, intends to speed up the process, enacting certain provisions by July 1, 2022, that work toward ending prohibition in the state and replacing it with a system to tax and regulate adult-use cannabis.

Specifically, Carter’s legislation would allow those 21 and older to possess and cultivate personal use amounts defined as 4 ounces of cannabis, 24 grams of concentrate or six plants, according to MPP.

Her bill also intends to vacate past cannabis convictions and distribute the majority of tax revenue from legal sales to fund community-based initiatives that serve communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition and enforcement.

Carter said during Thursday’s committee hearing that her legislation is essential to correcting inequities prohibition has caused for Black communities and others.

Under current law, possessing fewer than 10 grams is a civil offense in Maryland, but more than 10 grams (up to 50 pounds) is a misdemeanor punishable by up a $1,000 fine and one year of incarceration, according to advocacy reform group NORML.

Feldman, the vice chair of the Finance Committee, said during Thursday’s hearing that he believes he and Carter can work side-by-side to craft a final bill for the upper chamber.

“I don’t look at these bills as being in conflict,” he said. “I’m looking to you as a partner. We have no doubt that we can work out the differences in those provisions.”

Feldman added that the Senate lawmakers can also collaborate with House lawmakers to bring all three bills together to get the job done.

The 2022 Maryland General Assembly is in session until April 11.