Cannabuzz: Maryland eyes referendum on cannabis legalization

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Feb. 7, 2019

House Bill 632, to put to voters the question of whether to amend the Maryland constitution to legalize all cannabis, and House Bill 656, to establish a tax-and-regulate scheme for fully legalized cannabis, were introduced yesterday in the Maryland General Assembly by state delegates David Moon (D-20th District) and Eric Luedtke (D-14th District), both of Montgomery County.

Statewide public-opinion polling in Maryland has been tracking pro-legalization majorities for a while, and the most recent one – Goucher College’s Sept. 2018 “Goucher Poll” – found it to be quite pronounced: 62 percent for, 33 percent against. The political hurdles remaining before a referendum could be held, though, remain high: the legislative process, a gubernatorial signature, and a contest of campaigns for and against.

A pipe dream, some might say – and so far, an effort is driven purely by Democrats. (Here is some historical context for the Maryland GOP’s resistance to legalization.) Thirty sponsors back the referendum bill, all Democrats, comprising more than a fifth of the House of Delegates’ 141 members. The tax-and-regulate bill has nine sponsors, also all Democrats. Its cross-filed Senate version, Senate Bill 771, has only one sponsor: Sen. William C. Smith, Jr. (D-Montgomery County), who yesterday announced he’d been deployed to Afghanistan, leaving in March.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, of which Smith is vice chair, has scheduled a hearing on SB 771 at 12pm on Feb. 26. House hearings have yet to be scheduled for HB 632 and HB 656. Both bills have been assigned to the Judiciary Committee, and HB 656 also has been sent to the Ways and Means Committee.

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