Maryland could legalize marijuana this year

Lawmakers spark debate in Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Maryland General Assembly is once again considering bills that would increase access to marijuana.

Last year legislators approved a bill that would allow hospitals to study pot for medical uses, but so far none of them have.

Supporters of marijuana decriminalization say the General Assembly didn't go far enough last year. They say Maryland should move closer to Colorado and Washington State, which allow marijuana to be sold to anyone age 21 or over.

Sheriffs and police chiefs from across the state gathered outside a Senate hearing room at the State House to denounce the separate bills, which would either legalize marijuana or allow doctors to distribute it to patients.

“The idea that less violence will occur is an unproven talking point casually used by proponents of legalization,” said Chief Kenneth Davis of the Anne Arundel County Police Department.

The governor of Colorado expects revenue from legal pot sales to top $100-million in the next fiscal year. He is cautioning governors from other states considering legalization to proceed carefully.

Harford County State's Attorney Joe Cassilly said Maryland should wait for more results from Colorado and Washington State, which has also legalized the sale of marijuana.

“Then we can come back and have a discussion that's based on scientific evidence and not anecdotal comments from a bunch of pot heads,” he said.

A former state trooper told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee legalization would cut down on crime.

“By pulling the profit out of the street market we will also stem the violence. Citizens will be more likely to talk to the police, and the police in turn will be better equipped to solve murders, rapes and robberies,” said Leah Maddux, the former trooper.

Supporters of legalization also cite statistics showing African-Americans are much more likely to be charged with marijuana than whites.

Anna Oman, a mother from Montgomery County, testified that she occasionally uses marijuana.

“Men and women who've done no worse than I have been arrested and prosecuted because of where they live and the color of their skin and this is wrong,” she said.

State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery), who is sponsoring both the medicinal marijuana bill and the decriminalization bill, said he is expecting the Judicial Proceedings Committee to vote on both of them on Thursday, March 3.

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