Cannabis legalization legislation headed to the Senate

This article was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

This content was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill Friday that would allow voters to decide whether to legalize cannabis.

If House Bill 1, sponsored by House Judiciary Chair Luke H. Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), successfully makes it through the Senate chamber, voters can expect to see the question on the 2022 general election ballot.

“We’re at the beginning of an important process where we begin to look again at how we have treated the substance — cannabis,” Clippinger told the chamber Friday. “The thousands and thousands and thousands of people we have incarcerated because of it.”

“And those thousands of incarcerations have not made us any safer,” he continued.

The measure was passed on a vote of 96-34 with no debate.

Additionally, the chamber passed House Bill 837 to study the racial impacts of cannabis legalization, create a public health fund, alter the civil and criminal penalties and create a process of expungement for possession of the drug.

The bill passed 92-37. The only dissenting Democrats were Del. Jon S. Cardin (D-Baltimore County) and Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery). Delegates Jay Jalisi (D-Baltimore County) and Jay Walker (D-Prince George’s) were present in the chamber but did not vote.

In explaining his vote, Acevero said that he supports cannabis legalization and voters having a say, but there are aspects of legalization that he believes need to be addressed before the state can move forward.

“I’ve … made it clear that there are certain aspects to cannabis legalization that we musty also address … in order for us to move forward and, in part, to learn from what was done in the past that left not only communities behind but an industry that is now not only inequitable, but dominated by people who do not look like the people languishing behind bars and do not live in our state,” he said.

The House also passed an omnibus bill addressing juvenile justice reform.

House Bill 459 is based on the recommendations of the Juvenile Justice Reform Council, which met between 2020 and 2021 to study issues within Maryland’s juvenile justice system and make recommendations for reform. The bill would make several reforms, including establishing 10-years-old as the minimum age that children can be charged with a crime; Maryland law currently includes no lower limit for charging a child.

The bill would also set rules for when a child can be held in a detention facility before a trial and limit the amount of time a child can serve probation.

The bill passed out of the chamber on a party-line vote of 92-38.

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