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A top Maryland lawmaker has pre-tabled a bill to put the legalization of marijuana in the state’s 2022 poll.

The text of the legislation of Del. Luke Clippinger (R) – who chairs a cannabis task force that is studying the issue – was posted on Wednesday.

The bill, which seeks to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, was designated House Bill 1, signaling that it will be given priority. It is expected to be officially presented at the start of next year’s session on January 12 and has been referred to the Judiciary Committee, which Clippinger also chairs.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D) has worked to put lawmakers in a good position to push reform forward quickly, announcing the formation of a cannabis task force this summer and declaring lawmakers “will pass a law early next year “to send the issue of legalization back to voters.

If passed by the legislature, the following question would appear on the November ballot: “Are you in favor of legalizing adult cannabis in the state of Maryland?” If approved, it would then be up to lawmakers to develop rules permitting “the use, distribution, possession, regulation and taxation of cannabis within the state”.

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While advocates have pushed for cannabis reform, there are at least two elements to this measure who are already facing repression.

First, it sets an effective date for the legalization of simple possession approximately eight months after the election, July 1, 2023. Other states have moved much more quickly, notably in New York City where low-level possession was immediately apparent. legalized following the signing of the reform project.

Second, it would not force the legislature to allow home cultivation – a key provision activists have included in a Rough draft referendum they hoped lawmakers would model.

“While we are grateful to the legislative leaders for prioritizing the legalization of cannabis in 2022, we are disappointed that the pre-tabled referendum in the House continues the devastating war on cannabis for months after voters legalized cannabis, ”Karen O’Keefe, director of state policy for marijuana. Policy Project, said Marijuana Moment. “We strongly urge lawmakers to revise the proposal to legalize home possession and cultivation upon enactment. “

“We also urge lawmakers to pass implementing legislation in 2022 to ensure that racial justice is at the heart of legalization and to enable a faster transition to a safe and regulated market,” she said.

Clippinger’s office did not immediately respond to Marijuana Moment’s request for comment on the recently released measure.

The text of the bill was made available on Wednesday, but it was first requested in August, before the working group on the referendum and the legalization of cannabis held meetings. Members discussed a wide range of issues related to business licensing, expungement of previous convictions, criminal and traffic laws related to marijuana, social fairness and cannabis tax policy.

In October, the task force held a meeting at which a senior federal drug official gave lawmakers advice on legalization ahead of the referendum.

Senate Speaker Bill Ferguson (D) said in July reform was “overdue” in the state, but he seemed reluctant to adopt a referendum process and instead wanted to pass a bill to put end of the ban on cannabis before next November. .

Legalization legislation started moving through the legislature during the 2021 session, but ultimately no votes were taken.

The Senate finance committee held a hearing in March on a legalization bill sponsored by Ferguson, the majority leader and senior committee chairs. This followed a House Judiciary Committee hearing on a separate cannabis proposal in February.

Lawmakers had struggled to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate proposals in hopes of getting something over the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who did not approve the legalization but indicated that he might be open to considering the idea.

As Maryland lawmakers considered the two marijuana legalization bills in the last session, a poll found residents of the state were okay with the policy change. Two-thirds (67%) of people in Maryland now support legalizing cannabis, according to a Goucher College survey. Only 28% oppose it.

Pressure to adopt the reform is also increasing at the regional level. The legalization of marijuana took effect in Virginia in July, for example.

Maryland legalized medical marijuana through an act of the legislature in 2012. Two years later, a decriminalization law came into effect that replaced the criminal penalties for possession of less than 10 grams with a civil fine of $ 100 to $ 500. Since then, however, a number of efforts to pursue marijuana reform have failed.

Last year, a bill to extend the threshold for decriminalizing possession to one ounce was passed by the House last year but was never taken up in the Senate.

Also last year, the governor vetoed a bill that would have prevented those convicted of low-level cannabis from having their records published in a state database. In a veto statement, he said it was because lawmakers had failed to pass a separate non-cannabis related measure to tackle violent crime.

In 2017, Hogan declined to answer a question about whether voters should be able to decide the issue, but by mid-2018 he had signed a bill to extend the marijuana system to state medical purposes and said full legalization was worth considering: “At this point, I think it’s worth taking a look,” he told the time.

As for Maryland lawmakers, a House committee in 2019 held hearings on two bills that would have legalized marijuana. While these proposals were not passed, they have encouraged many hesitant lawmakers to start seriously considering change.

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