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Recreational marijuana use will be on the ballot this November

Posted at 7:03 PM, Sep 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-26 19:10:15-04

BALTIMORE — We are little more than a month away from the gubernatorial election and there are some controversial things on the ballot like the recreational use of marijuana.

It was passed through the house earlier this year, now it’s up to people in the community to vote on it this coming November.

The Cannabis Reform Bill or House Bill 837 has been a very hot topic for people on both ends of the spectrum. However, people backing it said if the referendum is passed it can potentially help the state financially and improve equity throughout the Baltimore communities.

Using marijuana for recreational purposes has been a fire conversation in Maryland since the first cannabis reform bill was introduced back in February of 2022.

“We have such a disparity when it comes to the prohibition of marijuana in terms of knowing that black people and white people use marijuana at just about the same rate. We've known this for decades, yet 92% of all arrests in Maryland have been based on the ACLU numbers, black people. And so it's prohibition isn't working when only one group is criminalized,” said Jill Carter, Maryland senator.

Carter said equity was one of the driving factors behind her passing the bill, as well as the financial benefits it could potentially bring to the state.

“So I would say that the two issues are the issues of bringing equity and criminal justice reform, but also, of course, the economic boom for the state to be able to regulate and tax it,” Carter said.

Senator Carter and Delegate Luke Clippinger alike said if the referendum is passed first it could allow people previously criminalized by marijuana use to have their names cleared.

“There are going to be greater opportunities for expungement under the law, and we'll of course be looking at those even more in years to come should the referendum pass.

Anybody who's presently incarcerated for simple possession of cannabis would be released on January 1st should the referendum pass. So the idea, again, would be to take the criminalization out of it and to begin to address the health impacts,” Clippinger said.

In addition to getting records expunged and addressing the health impacts like addiction, next they would need to work on figuring out how to tax the funds profited from recreational marijuana use.

Leaders said their hope is that some of the funds can go back into the communities that have been disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration due to people possessing small amounts of marijuana.

“So what I'm most excited about is this idea of equity, this idea that people who've been harmed by prohibition could now be able to end that taint of criminalization and be able to participate in a legal market. And then plus, of course, the economic boom to the state of Maryland, to be able to regulate and tax the marijuana, as opposed to all of the money just going into an illicit market. I think it's going to be definitely a benefit to the state,” Carter said.

If the referendum passes, people 21-years-old and older would legally be able to use marijuana recreationally, but they can’t possess more that 1.5 ounces of marijuana and that would take effect starting July of 2023.