By Sen. Norman Stone, 6th District
A majority of the emails I have been receiving since the 2014 Legislative Session convened are from constituents who support the legalization of marijuana.
As you may recall, last year Maryland passed a limited medical marijuana law allowing authorized academic medical centers and research centers to distribute marijuana. This program has run into complications and has yet to launch, however, patients are expected to be able to sign up for this program by 2015.
According to “Governing the States & Localities” publication, twenty states and the District of Columbia now have laws legalizing marijuana in some form.
To date both Colorado and Washington State have legalized marijuana for recreational use for those 21 years of age and older. Even though this measure was passed on referendum in Colorado and Washington, a similar ballot measure failed in Oregon.
Sixteen states have passed laws decriminalizing marijuana. Typically, decriminalization means no prison time or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount for personal consumption.
Last session, Senate Bill 297 passed the full Senate that altered the possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil offense punishable by a maximum fine of $100, however, it died in the House.
As you may have already read, Governor O’Mally opposes the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, stating that it could be “a gateway to even more harmful behavior.” Even though, House Speaker Michael Busch has voiced reservations about legalizing recreational marijuana use, he stated that he is open to legislation that would impose only civil fines and drug treatment on people caught with small amounts as an alternative to incarceration.
Senator Miller does not believe a bill that would legalize the use of marijuana will pass this year, however, he believes the support for the concept will continue to grow especially since a series of national polls are showing a majority of Americans now favor it.
As you probably are aware, I do not favor legalization of marijuana for recreational use and have voted against measures to do so. Like the Governor, I strongly believe it is a gateway drug which, in many instances, can lead to even more harmful and addictive drug use. I would, however, be more susceptible to support legislation which would lower the penalties for possession of small amounts or legislation to allow the citizens of Maryland to decide by referendum on this controversial issue.
As session progresses, I will attempt to keep you informed on numerous issues of importance to all of us. Our primary purpose in Annapolis is to best serve our district, county, and state. In doing so, we depend primarily on the opinions and positions of the people we represent. If you have a position or question on any issue, please let me know by calling 410-841-3587 and/or writing to me at 11 Bladen Street, 216 James Senate Office Bldg., Annapolis, MD 21401 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org .