Maryland House speaker supports cannabis referendum

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s House speaker says she supports a referendum to legalize marijuana on next year’s ballot.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones announced a workgroup on Friday to study how to implement a recreational marijuana program in Maryland, if voters approve.

“While I have personal concerns about encouraging marijuana use, particularly among children and young adults, the disparate criminal justice impact leads me to believe that the voters should have a say in the future of legalization,” Jones said in a statement. “The House will pass legislation early next year to put this question before the voters but we need to start looking at changes needed to State law now.”

The District of Columbia, Virginia and 17 other states have legalized recreational use.

While recreational use of marijuana was legalized for adults in Virginia beginning this month, the commercial production and sale of it is still around three years away.

In D.C., recreational marijuana use has been legalized for several years, though selling it without a recognized medical reason has not been. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently introduced the Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2021, which would allow for the legal sale of marijuana for recreational use. It would also expunge the records of those with felonies and misdemeanors relating to the distribution of marijuana prior to legalization. It would also give preference to those with those records to receive marijuana business licenses.

“This is about safety, equity, and justice,” Bowser said in a news release introducing the legislation. “Through this legislation, we can fulfill the will of D.C. voters, reduce barriers for entering the cannabis industry, and invest in programs that serve residents and neighborhoods hardest hit by the criminalization of marijuana.”

WTOP’s Zeke Hartner contributed to this report. 

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