Maryland House work group on legalizing pot lays out plans for year

A work group within the Maryland House of Delegates that is studying how to potentially legalize recreational marijuana in the state met for the first time Wednesday, laying out plans for the year ahead.

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The 10-member group was appointed by House Speaker Adrienne Jones, D-Baltimore County, who recently said that she supports putting a referendum on the November 2022 ballot that would allow voters to approve legalizing the drug.

Recreational pot has already been legalized in D.C. and 17 states, including Virginia.

Maryland decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, but recreational use remains illegal.

“The House of Delegates will pass a measure to put the question of legalizing on the ballot for the 2022 general election,” said work group chair Del. Luke H. Clippinger, D-Baltimore. “This work group will continue meeting throughout the interim.”

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According to Clippinger, the work group will have a legalization plan in place for the 2023 Maryland General Assembly session so lawmakers can work on it immediately if voters approve the referendum.

“This work group will establish the legal framework necessary to fully implement the legalization of marijuana and learn from the mistakes that other states have made before us,” Clippinger said.

Clippinger said the group would focus on a wide range of issues, including business licensing and equity in ownership of marijuana facilities.

“We will address expungement of previous convictions for cannabis and determine changes to existing criminal laws,” Clippinger said.

He added that the group also would “identify the structure for potential release of those convicted solely of marijuana-related crimes.”

The group has scheduled its second meeting for Oct. 9.

Jones said in a statement, “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.”

While Jones supports a referendum on legalization, effectively leaving the issue up to voters, Senate President Bill Ferguson has suggested he would rather pass a bill to end marijuana prohibition.

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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