By Ethan Rosenberg, Capital News Service
In the wake of votes to legalize marijuana in several states, a Maryland lawmaker has introduced legislation aimed at decriminalizing pot, regulating sales to adults 21 and older and allowing home growing in limited quantity.
Delegate Curt Anderson, D-Baltimore, who introduced HB 1453 on Thursday, sees the measure as a way to increase state revenue through means other than taxation. Decriminalizing marijuana, Anderson said, would relieve the financial burden on the criminal justice system from prosecuting possession charges and would save defendants from receiving criminal records.
The state would collect a $50 excise tax per ounce of marijuana sold wholesale. Residents who wish to grow marijuana would need to obtain a state issued identification “zip tie,” a cable that attaches to the plant, for $100 per year.
Though he is unsure whether the state is ready to legalize marijuana, Anderson said the idea needs to be on the table if there is any chance for such legislation to pass. A hearing on the bill has not yet been scheduled.
Delegate Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore, a co-sponsor, believes the bill is a push in the right direction. However, because Maryland legislators have had a hard time pushing medical marijuana, Glenn is not optimistic about the decriminalization bill’s chances for survival.
A 2011 Senate bill fell through that would have established a registration program for distribution facilities for medical marijuana.
Glenn recently reintroduced a bill that would allow the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana through compassion centers for patients who have an ongoing relationship with a physician. The 2012 version of the bill died on the last day of the session when it did not receive a vote in the Senate.
The state currently has an affirmative legal defense for individuals who suffer from debilitating chronic diseases. A bill that would allow an affirmative defense for caregivers, an immediate family member or a domestic partner of a patient whose debilitating condition prohibits them from getting their own marijuana, passed 92-40 Thursday in the House.
Glenn said that an increase in support for marijuana legislation that avoids treating the drug as a taboo subject is not dangerous.
“Nobody’s ever died from second-hand marijuana smoke. I absolutely believe it should be legalized, but I think it is a good thing to have it on the table,” Glenn said.
Voters in Colorado and Washington State approved ballot measures in November legalizing recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and older.
“You never get to that point unless you have discussions about it, and the discussions we’ll have this year are probably had in a more serious vein because of what happened around the country,” Anderson said. “People now are not afraid to talk about it, and apparently people are not afraid to introduce bills.”