Maryland

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Maryland: Governor Will Sign Bill Removing Criminal Penalties For Marijuana

MarylandGovernorMartinO'Malley

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley said on Monday that he will sign a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, report Fredrick Kunkle and John Wagner at The Washington Post.

The Maryland Senate gave final approval Monday afternoon (34-8) to a bill that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana. It will now be sent to Gov. O'Malley.

"As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the public will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety," Gov. O'Malley said in a statement. "I know that that is an acknowledgment of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police and the vast majority of our citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health."

The Maryland House voted 78-55 on Saturday to approve the same measure approved on Monday by the Senate. The bill narrowly survived efforts by House Judiciary Committee Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George's County) and others to kill it in committee, by "appointing a task force to study the issue."

Maryland: House of Delegates Passes Marijuana Decrim Bill; Headed To Governor's Desk

MarylandMarijuanaLeaf

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maryland's House of Delegates on Saturday night passed a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill, already approved by the Maryland Senate, is now headed for Governor Martin O'Malley's desk for his signature or veto.

If the Governor signs the bill, HB 1453, getting busted for 10 grams or less of cannabis won't mean going to jail, reports Alex DeMetrick at WJZ. Under current Maryland law, any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense.

"The key is there will be civil penalties instead of criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana," said Del. Kioeffer Mitchell Jr. (D-Baltimore). Possession of 10 grams or less would result in a citation and a possible fine, but no arrest and no criminal record. Seventeen other states have similar laws.

The House voted 78-55 to impose civil fines, rather than criminal penalties, for less than 10 grams of pot, reports Elizabeth LaForgia at Jurist. Those favoring the move pointed to racial disparities, with African Americans much more likely to both be arrested, and to receive a prison sentence for possession.

Maryland: Delegates Try To Revive Marijuana Decrim Bill

MarylandDelegateAishaBraveboy

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Several rebellious members of the Maryland House of Delegates tried on Friday to revive a bill which would remove criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana, days after the measure got hung up in a committee, according to lawmakers.

Delegates led by members of the Legislative Black Caucus tried to amend the legislation in the full House, an unusual challenge to committee rule in the tightly scripted Legislature, report Fredrick Kunkle and John Wagner at The Washington Post. The move is also a challenge to one of the most powerful men in the House, Judiciary Committee Chairman Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr (D-Prince George's County).

"There are a number of members in the House who feel very strongly that Maryland should be moving in the direction of decriminalizing marijuana," said Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (D-Prince George's County), chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

Overcoming a committee chairman's opposition "is very difficult," she said. "But it's not impossible, and it has happened before."

The amendment will likely be introduced during Friday's House session, but debate could be pushed until Saturday, according to several lawmakers.

Last year, the Maryland Senate passed a decriminalization bill, but that one also died in Vallario's committee without a vote. This year was looking like a rerun.

Maryland: Senate Approves Effective Medical Marijuana Bill

MarylandMedicalMarijuana

Legislation would allow patients with certain serious conditions to use medical marijuana; regulations to be established by existing medical marijuana commission

The Maryland Senate on Thursday approved a bill 45-1 after its third reading that would allow seriously ill Marylanders to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their doctors. The amended bill will now go to the House for consideration, where a similar bill has already been approved.

SB 923, introduced by Sen. Jamie Raskin and co-sponsored by 12 other senators, would allow seriously ill residents suffering from certain qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Possession limits and regulations governing cultivation and dispensary facilities would be determined by the state prior to implementation.

A companion bill, HB 881, was co-sponsored by 80 delegates and approved overwhelmingly by the House earlier this year and is waiting for consideration by the Senate.

Maryland: House Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

MarylandMedicalMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Maryland House of Delegates on Monday overwhelmingly approved House Bill 881, whicht would allow specially licensed physicians in the state to authorize patients with debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana.

The bill, which was written in response to growing public support for the medicinal use of cannabis, now goes to the Maryland Senate, where supporters are optimistic about its chances, reports Michael Dresser at The Baltimore Sun.

The legislation, which passed the House on a 127-9 vote, would replace a medical marijuana system that is almost universally regarded as a complete failure, and which hasn't helped any patients at all. That system restricted medicinal cannabis use to patients seeking care at academic medical centers, but none of the centers agreed to participate (surprise, surprise, since they receive federal funding).

"This is a matter of life and death for our people," said Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore), whose medical marijuana bill was consolidated with one sponsored by Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), who is a physician.

The lead sponsor of the bill was changed from Morhaim to Glenn, because the state's medical marijuana commission is named after Glenn's late mother. "This was a real exercise of love and caring," Glenn said.

Maryland: House of Delegates Advances Medical Marijuana Bill

MarylandMarijuanaLeaf

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Last year, the Maryland Legislature passed a completely useless medical marijuana law which limited distribution to a small number of approved academic medical centers. None of those centers, surprise surprise, were willing to participate, so patients were still left without any safe access. Now, legislators are looking to fix the law to help patients actually obtain cannabis. On Saturday, the House gave preliminary approval to a bill that would increase safe access to medical marijuana.

The House of Delegates on Monday plans to vote on a bill by Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) which would loosen its current law and replace the non-functional system created last year with one that works, reports Michael Dresser at The Baltimore Sun.

"The important thing to recognize is that there are thousands of Marylanders who could be helped in the short and long term," said Morhaim. "We're missing a tremendous economic opportunity to exploit this plant and use it in an intelligent, properly scientific, research way."

Lawmakers heard extensive testimony this year about the therapeutic benefits of cannabis to patients with epilepsy, the side effects of chemotherapy, auto-immune disorders and other medical conditions. The bill would allow physicians to authorize patients to use medical marijuana outside the medical center setting.

Maryland: Law Enforcement, Public Square Off On Marijuana Legalization

MarylandMarijuanaFlag

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Seldom has there been a clearer divide between the will of the people and the wishes of law enforcement to hold onto their power. With the Maryland Senate taking a final vote on decriminalizing marijuana on Friday, supporters squared off with police officers in a battle of words, with the cops seemingly unwilling to let go of almost 80 years of war on a plant.

Dozens of uniformed law enforcement officers from around the state showed up at the state capital on Thursday to oppose popular efforts by some legislators to loosen Maryland's marijuana laws, reports Megan Brockett of Capital News Service.

The packed committee room became tense at times, as law enforcement officials attempted to fight back against the rising tide of support for changing the cannabis laws. Many officers voiced passionate opposition to any loosening of the pot laws, darkly warning of "unintended consequences" that supposedly might follow. In a quite revealing admission, some officers argued that changing the laws would hinder the ability of cops to conduct searches on the basis of marijuana odor.

Maryland: Senate Committee Approves Bill to Impose a Civil Fine for Marijuana Possession

MarylandMarijuanaFlag

The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Friday approved a bill 8-3 with bipartisan support that would replace criminal penalties with a civil fine for possession of limited amounts of marijuana. The measure will now receive a full vote in the Senate, which approved a similar measure last year with bipartisan support.

SB 364, co-sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore) and Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Howard), would replace criminal penalties for possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana with a $100 fine, similar to a parking ticket. It would also make penalties for minors the same as those for underage possession of alcohol. Under current Maryland law, possession of small amounts of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Maryland had the fourth highest arrest rate in the nation for marijuana possession, according to a report released in June by the American Civil Liberties Union. It also found that blacks accounted for 58 percent of marijuana possession arrests and were more than three times more likely to be arrested than whites despite using marijuana at comparable rates.

More than two-thirds of Maryland voters (68 percent) support changing state laws to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100, according to a survey conducted in September by Public Policy Polling. The full results are available at http://www.mpp.org/MDpoll.

Maryland: Lawmakers Vow Workable Medical Marijuana Program This Year

MarylandMarijuanaFlag

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bipartisan group of Maryland lawmakers on Friday vowed to pass legislation this year that will create a workable medical marijuana program in the state, 34 years after the idea was first proposed in the General Assembly.

Delegates Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore) and Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), sponsors of two bills that would replace legislation passed last year which is now widely regarded as a failure, said they would combine their two bills into a single measure, reports Michael Dresser at The Baltimore Sun.

"We're going to get a bill passed this year," said Glenn, adding that Maryland should join 20 other states which give suffering patients the option to access cannabis, which is considered a Schedule I prohibited drug at the federal level.

The Maryland Legislature last year passed, and Gov. Martin O'Malley signed, a badly written medical marijuana bill which restricted its distribution to academic medical centers. Since then, unsurprisingly, none of the state's medical centers has volunteered to operate such a program, meaning serious ill Marylanders still have no safe access to cannabis.

Some pain experts told a legislative work group that marijuana is safe and effective in relieving symptoms of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, the side effects of cancer treatment, and other conditions.

Maryland: Senate Panel Takes Up Marijuana Legalization, Decrim

MarylandMarijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Despite hostility from Governor Martin O'Malley, Maryland lawmakers are moving forward on bills which would either reduce marijuana penalties, or legalize cannabis entirely.

Dozens of people on Tuesday testified before legislators and called for an end to the state's war on marijuana, which they said has done more harm than good, reports Megan Brockett at Capital News Service.

One bill would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to a ticket and a fine, reports Pat Warren at CBS Baltimore. The other would make pot legal for adults 21 and older, with regulation and taxes.

In a heated debate, proponents of both bills pointed to what they called the negative consequences of marijuana prohibition, including barriers to employment and education created by pot arrests and the racial disparities that often surface in enforcement. In 2010, Maryland had the fourth-highest marijuana arrest rate in the nation, with African-Americans being arrested for possession at higher rates than whites in every county in the state, according to a report released last October by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Maryland: Senator Corrects Police Chief In Hearing On Marijuana Legalization

PoliceChiefMichaelPristoopAnnapolisMaryland

Anti-Legalize-and-Regulate Cops Accidentally Highlight Own Ignorance of Drug War Issues

Pro-Legalize-and-Regulate Cops Guardedly Optimistic About Future of Law Enforcement

I wish I could've been there. A clueless police chief was practically laughed out of the Maryland Legislature on Tuesday.

The oppositional side of the hearing on legalization and regulation of marijuana in the Maryland Senate turned into a comedy of errors, courtesy of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and Maryland Sheriffs’ Association. The gallery erupted in laughter and outrage after Annapolis Chief of Police Michael Pristoop cited a hoax story about deaths attributed to marijuana overdose in Colorado. He was publicly corrected by one of the presiding senators, who pulled up the hoax on his phone and explained the story was a joke.

Other questionable statements included Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis’s point that marijuana shouldn’t be legalized because police would have to retrain expensive drug-sniffing police dogs, an officer making light of the dangers of alcohol use, a DA asserting “no one goes to jail for marijuana,” and comments on how absent (constitutionally required) probable cause other than the supposed smell of marijuana, police would be less able to conduct pretextual stops such as stop-and-frisk.

Maryland: Gubernatorial Candidate Asks Front Runners To Back Marijuana Decrim

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur, a Democratic state delegate, is asking the state's lieutenant governor and attorney general -- who are the front runners in the campaign for the governor's mansion -- to join her in backing marijuana decriminalization.

Running for the Democratic nomination for governor, Mizeur faces Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler in next year's primary. She estimated that taxing cannabis could net up to $157.5 million in new revenue for the state annually.

The Maryland Marijuana Decriminalization Act -- which would reduce penalties for possession of an ounce or less of cannabis to a $100 fine -- may have the votes to pass in the Maryland Legislature, which is run by Democratic supermajorities, reports David Weigel at Slate.

"Marijuana's time as a controlled, illegal substance has run its course," Mizeur said. "Marijuana laws ruin lives, are enforced with racial bias and distract law enforcement from serious and violent crimes.

"A Maryland with legalized, regulated and taxed marijuana will mean safer communities, universal early childhood education and fewer citizens unnecessarily exposed to our criminal justice system," she said.

Maryland: Former Cop Helps Lead Effort To Legalize Marijuana

NeillFranklinLEAP

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A former law enforcement officer is helping the push to legalize marijuana in Maryland.

"We've been at this forever," said retired drug cop Neill Franklin of the war on drugs. "It never worked."

"When he talks about the Drug War, he knows what he's talking about," said Sara Love, public policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, who calls Franklin a "linchpin" of the movement, reports Erin Cox at The Baltimore Sun. "He's been out on the street, he's arrested people -- and realized at the end that those arrests haven't helped anybody."

Advocates across Maryland and the nation often turn to Franklin, 55, for an intelligent voice in drug policy reform. Four years ago, he took a $40,000 pay cut to become executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an international organization of former police officers, judges, prosecutors and corrections officers who now advocate drug legalization.

Until this year, most of Franklin's work has been out of state or in Washington, D.C., but with the legalization effort ramping up in Maryland, he's been staying a bit closer to home lately.

In Annapolis, he focuses his message on why Maryland should legalize marijuana: It is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco; the black market fuels violence and finances cartels; unfair enforcement sends twice as many blacks as whites to jail for pot possession.

Maryland Lawmakers Launch Effort To Legalize Marijuana

MarylandMarijuana

State and national organizations announce the formation of the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland, which will support forthcoming legislation to establish a legal marijuana market for adults

State lawmakers on Thursday launched an effort to pass a bill in this year's legislative session that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Maryland. Sen. Jamie Raskin, Del. Curt Anderson, and Del. Sheila Hixson were joined at a news conference by leaders of several state and national organizations, who announced the formation of a broad coalition in support of the forthcoming legislation.

The Marijuana Control Act of 2014 would make the personal use, possession, and limited home-growing of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older; establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol; and allow for the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp. Click here for a detailed summary of the bill.

The new and expanding Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland includes the ACLU of Maryland, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, among others.

Maryland Lawmakers to Launch Effort to Regulate and Tax Marijuana Like Alcohol

MarijuanaPolicyCoalitionOfMaryland

Legislators will join leaders of state and national organizations at a news conference Thursday at 9 a.m. ET to announce the formation of a broad coalition in support of forthcoming legislation to establish a legal marijuana market for adults

State lawmakers will launch an effort Thursday to pass a bill in this year's legislative session that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Maryland. They will join leaders of state and national organizations at a news conference at 9 a.m. ET in the House Ways and Means Hearing Room (131) to discuss their forthcoming legislation and announce the formation of a broad coalition in support of it.

Del. Curt Anderson, Del. Sheila Hixson, and Sen. Jamie Raskin are scheduled to participate in the news conference. They will be joined by the new and expanding Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland, which includes the ACLU of Maryland, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the League of Women Voters of Maryland, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, among others. A full list of coalition members is available at http://www.RegulateMarijuanaInMd.org.

A majority of Maryland voters (53 percent) support regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol, according to a survey conducted in late September by Public Policy Polling. Only 38 percent said they were opposed. The full results are available at http://www.mpp.org/MDpoll.

Maryland: Long-Serving Senate President Says He Supports Marijuana Legalization

MarylandMarijuanaFlag

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Longtime Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has thrown his support behind marijuana legalization.

Sen. Miller (D-Calvert), who has presided over the chamber for more than 25 years, said on Friday that he would support a bill allowing the regulated sale of cannabis, similar to what is now taking place in Colorado, reports John Wagner at The Washington Post.

"I favor the legalization and taxation of marijuana, with restrictions," Miller said. "I know where people are going to be a generation or two from now."

Miller said that while a legalization bill would stand a good chance in the Maryland Senate, he thinks the going would be much tougher in the House, and that Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, who rose to fame as the "tough-on-crime" mayor of Baltimore, "is always slow on issues like this."

"Quite frankly, I don't see it passing," Miller said. The Senator has a conservative record on most social issues, having voted against same-sex marriage and repeal of the death penalty in recent years.

Last year, the Maryland Senate approved a bill that would have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana on a 30-16 vote. The bill would have reduced the penalty for possession to a civil fine of up to $100, but the measure died in the House.

Maryland: Gubernatorial Hopeful Proposes Marijuana Legalization

HeatherMizeur.jpg

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Heather R. Mizeur on Tuesday proposed legalizing marijuana and using the tax proceeds to fund pre-kindergarten education.

Mizeur proposed that Maryland regulate marijuana much like alcohol, reports John Wagner at The Washington Post.

Running for the Democratic nomination for governor, Mizeur faces Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler in next year's primary. She estimated that taxing cannabis could net up to $157.5 million in new revenue for the state annually.

Under her plan, adults 21 and older would be allowed to have up to an ounce of cannabis legally. Public pot smoking would not be allowed, and it would be illegal to drive under the influence.

"Marijuana's time as a controlled, illegal substance has run its course," Mizeur said. "Marijuana laws ruin lives, are enforced with racial bias and distract law enforcement from serious and violent crimes.

"A Maryland with legalized, regulated and taxed marijuana will mean safer communities, universal early childhood education and fewer citizens unnecessarily exposed to our criminal justice system," she said.

Maryland: Majority of Voters Support Legalizing Marijuana; Only 38% Opposed

MarylandMarijuanaFlag

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A majority of Maryland voters -- 53 percent -- support making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol, according to a survey conducted last weekend by Public Policy Polling. Only 38 percent said they were opposed.

The poll also found that more than two thirds -- 68 percent -- support removing criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replacing them with a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $100 with no possibility of jail time. Only 26 percent said they were opposed to that plan.

"Most Maryland voters recognize that marijuana prohibition has failed and believe it is time to adopt a more sensible approach," said Rachelle Yeung, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "By regulating marijuana like alcohol we can take marijuana sales out of the underground market and put them behind the counters of legitimate, tax-paying businesses.

"Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and it is time to treat it that way," Yeung said.

"Our current marijuana prohibition policies are grossly ineffective," said Sara Love, public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland. "It's time to take a commonsense approach to public safety and criminal justice.

Maryland: Governor Appoints Commission To Oversee Medical Marijuana Program

MarylandGovernorMartinO'Malley

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maryland's medical marijuana law is "smoke and mirrors," according to Maryland NORML; almost all national cannabis law reform organizations agree, and don't include Maryland on the list of MMJ states, since its law appears to be unworkable. Be that as it may, Governor Martin O'Malley on Thursday appointed a commission to oversee the program.

The governor appointed 11 members to the Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission, as called for by legislation passed during this year's session of the General Assembly, reports John Wagner at The Washington Post. Chairing the marijuana commission will be Dr. Paul W. Davies, president of Advanced Pain Management Specialists, which has eight locations in Maryland.

Maryland's new medical marijuana law limits distribution of cannabis to a small number of academic medical centers. The commission has the authority to permit the centers to design and implement programs that make marijuana available to defined groups of patients.

The earliest that a center could begin distribution is 2016, according to legislative analysts. The marijuana commission is scheduled to have its first meeting in Baltimore on September 24.

But according to Judy Pentz of Maryland NORML, the law is little more than political window dressing.

Maryland Will Become 19th Medical Marijuana State

(Illustration: Splice Today)Gov. Martin O'Malley Will Sign Bill Into Law On May 2; Program Could Take Until 2016 To Implement

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maryland will become the 19th state in the U.S. to legalize medical marijuana.

Gov. Martin O'Malley's spokeswoman, Raquel Guillory, confirmed on Wednesday that the governor will sign a medical marijuana bill into law on Thursday, May 2, but it could be up to three years before the program is up and running, reports The Associated Press.

Supporters hope that some research centers will move faster now that they've seen how the program would work.

Some medical marijuana supporters, however, say the bill doesn't go far enough to help the seriously ill people who need cannabis medicinally.

The bill allows academic medical research centers to establish programs to dispense marijuana to patients who have a physician's authorization.

(Graphic: Medical Cannabis News)

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