Full access to Entrepreneur for $5
Subscribe

Maryland Plans Recreational Cannabis Vote in 2022 Elections

The impact of wrongful criminal justice has convinced lawmakers to allow voters to weigh in.

By
This story originally appeared on Cannabis.net

Marijuana is becoming a fixture during political rallies, campaigns, and legislative plans. You don’t have to wonder why this is the norm because there is a heightened global interest in cannabis, with different states and nations committing to studying and harnessing its potential through legalization. 

So it is no shocking to see that Maryland is taking the same approach as its lawmakers are planning cannabis legalization measures for their 2022 elections. The lawmakers announced that the legislative arm of government would rely on voters on marijuana policy reform. 

They intend to do this by putting cannabis legislation measures on a statewide ballot in 2022. The Maryland House of Delegate Speaker, Adrienne A. Jones issued a statement stating that she will create a legislative workgroup to start studying the conditions around cannabis legalization. 

She expressed her concerns about encouraging the use of marijuana with young adults and children. But also maintained that the impact of wrongful criminal justice has convinced her to allow voters to contribute to the legalization discourse in 2022. 

Jones also said that the House would pass its legislation in the early part of 2022, so the question is put to voters after cannabis is thoroughly studied in the fall. 

A workgroup will study the issue

To show how serious they are with this 2022 goal, Maryland has instituted a workgroup to examine all aspects of cannabis legalization. By “All aspects” here, we mean the possession and buying of legal marijuana as well as licensing and oversight of the marijuana business. Taxes and the number of marijuana licenses to be issued by Maryland will also be studied. 

The Maryland lawmakers also included social equity proposals as part of what the group will study. As well as the idea of expunging and sealing previous convictions for cannabis offenses and dropping charges in all undecided cases.

Maryland’s efforts with cannabis and restorative social justice 

Whenever a state is set to legalize cannabis, it is often imperative that they consider minority communities that have been marginalized before the legalization conversation started. The use of marijuana has had a disparate impact on minority communities such as people of color for far too long. 

Former American Secretary of Education John King also voiced his support for Maryland’s legalization efforts, focusing on social justice. He reiterated in a tweet that legalizing cannabis is just one step, and Maryland must also ensure that enterprises led by black people are given some preference. He wants such businesses to participate, from licensing to sales, fairly. 

He also pointed out in a tweet that black people in Maryland are almost twice as likely as whites to be jailed for possessing cannabis despite using it at the same pace. Therefore marijuana shouldn’t only be legalized; the prior records should be expunged for non-violent offenders. 

The workgroup chair Del. Luke Clippinger released a statement saying that the workgroup will set the legal framework to implement all legislative processes for cannabis. They also aim to learn from the mistakes of the past and the errors other states made in terms of social justice. 

Clippinger further stipulates that the house speaker has instructed the workgroup to carry out their task with an ‘Eye towards equity” and a “Consideration for black and brown neighborhoods.” They are also meant to consider black and brown businesses that were historically affected by marijuana use. 

Eric Luedtke is the House Majority Leader tasked with leading the work group’s efforts regarding taxing all commercially manufactured marijuana products. He maintains that the laws for the prohibition of marijuana are not equally enforced. Therefore, there should be legislative measures in place to ensure restorative justice measures for all marginalized communities. 

Luedtke insists that many legislators share his idea on racial equity within the cannabis legalization framework. His assertion falls on the fact that prosecution of the drug war has been disproportionate towards low-income and minority communities. So as Maryland heads towards legalization, the state must ensure that some of these issues are repaired with the communities getting justice. 

RELATED: Maryland Marijuana Sales Double the Forecast

Medical marijuana in Maryland is already legal

Interestingly, Maryland has legalized marijuana for medicinal uses in 2013. Despite sturdy support for consistent reform, recreational cannabis is still illegal. In a poll conducted in March by Goucher College, it was discovered that two-thirds of Maryland residents support the legalization of adult-use marijuana. 

But lawmakers in the state are yet to pass the proposed legalization bill set at the start of this year, even though other states around Maryland have made progress on their cannabis reforms. A good example is Washington D.C that legalized the home cultivation and possession of recreational marijuana in 2014. Virginia also passed a more detailed adult-use cannabis legislation in the earlier part of the year. 

On July 1, the possession of a small amount of cannabis by adults was legalized in Virginia, and licensed sales (retail) will begin in 2024. The Senate President of Maryland’s legislature Bill Ferguson chaired the workgroup that studied marijuana legalization in 2019. He also released a statement saying that the Senate is committed to a fair, equitable, and just marijuana process, and it will all begin in its 2022 session. 

Ferguson agrees that Maryland is behind other states, hence why he pointed out that 18 states have legalized cannabis for recreational purposes. He believes that it is time for Maryland to make the same move within a more equitable framework. He is also fully supporting the workgroup addressing all cannabis-related injustices in the state’s criminal justice scheme. 

RELATED: Black-Owned Cannabis Businesses You Can Support Right Now

Bottom line

Maryland is beginning to join in the cannabis legalization movement, which has swept other states in America. What is most exciting about their 2022 ambition is the deliberate inclusion of correcting all the ills done to minority communities on account of possessing or using marijuana. 

2022 will be a fascinating year for cannabis enthusiasts, experts, and entrepreneurs in Maryland. As Maryland kicks off its legalization program, it is evident that more states will follow suit, and this is all towards achieving the global marijuana legalization goal.