ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland voters would decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana in November, under a bill approved by the House of Delegates on Friday. The bill comes at a time when many schools in Prince George’s county Public Schools (PGCPS) and Maryland in general are in chaos due to widespread use of drugs and alcohol. In PGCPS, drugs are being used during school hours leading to many staff members to look for a way out into retirement. Some students have become dealers selling small quantities to others.
Drugs and alcohol are some of the most detrimental, yet most common disruptions in teenage brain development. They manipulate the brain’s wiring and affect the way the brain processes and retains information – including the way a teen thinks, focuses, learns, remembers, and concentrates inside and outside of school.
Not only can drugs impair teens’ cognitive development, they can also affect students’ performance in school: their ability to memorize things, concentration in the classroom, prioritization of assignments, likelihood to attend class, and even their overall IQ. However, staff members have been asked not disclose illegal activities involving students in PGCPS in order to help cover up the illicit activity.
The House voted 96-34 for the constitutional amendment, sending it to the Senate. The House also voted 92-37 for a separate bill that includes initial steps that would be taken if voters approve. However, issues relating to licensing and taxation would be taken up by lawmakers next year.
The bill would allow Marylanders more than 21 years old to possess up to 1.5 ounces of recreational cannabis without penalty. Possession of over 1.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis would be reduced to a civil offense rather than a misdemeanor.
Possession of more than 2.5 ounces would be a misdemeanor with penalties of up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000, also starting Jan. 1.
Maryland would be required to develop race- and gender-neutral approaches to addressing the needs of minority and women applicants who seek to participate in the marijuana business. The legislation also creates a fund to help small, minority-owned and women-owned businesses entering the industry.
Currently, 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, have fully legalized marijuana. There also are 37 states, including Maryland, that have legalized medical marijuana. However, Contrary to the beliefs of those who advocate the legalization of marijuana, the current balanced, restrictive, and bipartisan drug policies of the United States are working reasonably well and they have contributed to reductions in the rate of marijuana use in our nation. Marijuana can harm the lungs if users smoke it; and. It causes additional effects—like the “high”—that may interfere with the quality of life of patients taking the drug for serious medical conditions.
Maryland lawmakers on Wednesday laid the groundwork for legalizing recreational marijuana with the initial approval of a House bill detailing how much a person could possess and which former arrests would be expunged, among other things.
The standards will take effect if voters approve a November referendum that would add Maryland to a growing list of more than a dozen states, including Virginia, that have legalized marijuana for adult use.
Maryland’s measure does not allow for the sale of marijuana or detail how it would be regulated but instead ensures people can possess and use marijuana without criminal penalties.
The vote, which came after a 90-minute debate, was largely along partisan lines with Republican lawmakers raising concerns about access to the drug and its use.
They sought, unsuccessfully, to increase the proposed fine for using marijuana in a public place, equating it to alcohol and the penalty imposed for public intoxication. A higher penalty would act as a deterrent, they said.
“This isn’t a slap on the wrist, this is a tickle on the wrist,” House Minority Leader Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany) said of the $50 fine a person would receive for smoking marijuana in public. “I don’t know how many of you have gotten a speeding ticket where the fine is less than this. Doing 70 in a 55 you are going to pay more than $50.”
Del. David Moon (D-Montgomery) argued against the amendment. He said the “central mission” for him and many of his Democratic colleagues, who pushed for legalization to take effect soon after the referendum passes, is to get nonviolent crimes off the books.
Moon said a survey of adult residents found that half had smoked marijuana. “Half of Maryland residents likely got away with a jailable offense when they did this,” he said. “The more disturbing part of this is that White Marylanders have been getting away with this jailable offense at much higher rates than all the rest of us.”
Under the bill, a person would be able to possess 1.5 ounces or up to 2 plants. The measure allows for automatic expungements of some marijuana-related arrests and resentencing of those convicted of some marijuana-related charges.
Buckel said his amendment was not intended to target a person legally consuming marijuana in their home; neither was it about racial inequities or disparities.
“You should not be able to smoke marijuana near children, near the elderly, near those who do not want to be exposed to your marijuana smoke. Period, end stop,” he said. “I do not care if the 5-year-old little boy or little girl who is getting exposed to the guy on the street corner smoking marijuana is Black, is Brown, is White, is pink-polka dotted.”
The Democratic-controlled House also rejected Buckel’s efforts to allow localities without majority approval of legalization to set their own rules, instead of making the law statewide, saying some counties do not want “this crammed down their throat.”
The House is expected to give the bill final approval this week. It will then head to the Senate where lawmakers will consider another legalization bill that creates a structure for licensing and regulating marijuana.
In other action, the House gave preliminary approval to a bill that requires county boards of education to provide age-appropriate instruction on the risks of sexting as part of a school’s family life and human sexuality curriculum.
The initial vote came after Republicans unsuccessfully attempted to require local school districts to put the curriculum online. The amendment failed, largely along party lines.
Via Washington Post