Marijuana Debate Headed to Senate Committee This Week

Lawmakers are scheduled to weigh a handful of measures seeking to change Maryland’s marijuana laws, including a decriminalization bill.

Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, speaks at a January press conference in Annapolis announcing his measure to legalize marijuana in Maryland. (Credit: Megan Brockett, Capital News Service)
Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, speaks at a January press conference in Annapolis announcing his measure to legalize marijuana in Maryland. (Credit: Megan Brockett, Capital News Service)


Maryland lawmakers are set to get their first real whiff of marijuana legislation this session with hearings scheduled Tuesday on measures that look to lift or loosen the state’s ban on recreational use of the drug.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, would make it legal for residents 21 years of age and older to possess, use and grow marijuana, which would be taxed and regulated like alcohol. Proponents say it would create revenue for the state and free up law enforcement officials to focus more time and resources on serious crimes.

“Marijuana arrests and prosecutions are costing us more than $100 million a year, and they are ruining the futures of thousands of our own citizens for doing something that our last four or five presidents readily admitted to doing themselves,” Raskin said. "Alcohol prohibition didn’t work, and marijuana prohibition is not working, and it’s time to have a serious discussion about it.”

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is also slated to hear an alternate proposal Tuesday that would bump the possession of small amounts of marijuana from a criminal offense down to a civil one.

Under the decriminalization bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Robert Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, and Sen. Allan Kittleman, R-Howard, those caught with fewer than 10 grams of marijuana could be issued a citation and ordered to pay a fine, but would no longer have to appear in court.

A similar bill died in the House last session after earning majority support from the Senate, but Zirkin said he is hopeful about this version, which includes stricter provisions for minors caught with marijuana.

Zirkin said decriminalization offers an abundance of benefits without any of the risks and uncertainties that come with legalization.

“Philosophically, I don’t think [marijuana] should be an illegal substance, but you want to make sure that you’re not getting all these bad effects by moving too fast, too soon,” he said. “With decriminalization, this is something that’s been done for a long time in states across this country.”

Raskin has signed on in support of the decriminalization bill, but like other advocates of legalization, he has said that simply decriminalizing marijuana doesn’t do enough to take control away from drug dealers. Banning the substance drives up its cost and puts money into the pockets of criminals, legalization supporters argue.

“I want to put the drug dealers out of business, and the way to do that is to have government regulate, tax and control marijuana in our state,” Raskin said.

Under his bill, Marylanders could posses up to an ounce of marijuana and own as many as six plants, though smoking the drug in public would remain prohibited. Revenue brought in by the state would fund things like school construction projects and drug and alcohol treatment programs, supporters said at a press conference last month.

Gov. Martin O’Malley has expressed opposition to legalization, calling marijuana a “gateway to more harmful activity.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to weigh a handful of measures seeking to change Maryland’s marijuana laws, including a decriminalization bill sponsored in the House by gubernatorial candidate Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery.

As part of her gubernatorial campaign, Mizeur has proposed legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana in order to finance prekindergarten education for all Maryland children. Mizeur’s opponents in the June Democratic primary—Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler—have voiced support for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana.

Bryan Harz February 25, 2014 at 03:27 PM
OK, I shouldn't have used the word "healthier", but definitely pot is way less harmful than alcohol. And one day society will stop lumping pot in with much harder drugs like cocaine, heroine, etc and stop believing the false propaganda. It's a plant that grows in the ground and is not processed, manufactured, or distilled. And other uses from the stalk (hemp) would be beneficial as well in ropes, fabrics, etc. I believe the first companies that started manufacturing plastic (Dupont) helped to criminalize pot as hemp was it's main competitor, and government went right along with it. Once again, it was all about the money.
Bryan Harz February 25, 2014 at 03:32 PM
Michele, lawmakers are crazy...about MONEY! LOL!! And there are many positives about legalizing marijuana. Along with tax money for the state, read my post just above yours. I can only hope alcohol loses ground to pot. But I'm sure the alcohol companies will be lobbying hard to make sure it doesn't.
Michael Enfield February 25, 2014 at 05:59 PM
Good News! Hopefully, our legislators will wake up to the positive effect, both emotionally and, 'natch, fiscally on their constituents.
Michele February 27, 2014 at 01:24 PM
Dream on, Dopers! I definitely don't want my employees coming to work stoned. I guess you don't mind a policeman or fireman responding to an emergency all f***ck-d up. GET REAL
Bryan Harz February 27, 2014 at 04:10 PM
Michele, who said anything about smoking before or at work? If someone gets stoned and shows up to work, fire them. That's not being responsible on their part. Just like you should fire someone who shows up to work drunk. Also, assuming that policemen and firemen would be that irresponsible to show up for duty stoned is offensive to those in the profession. Please refrain from name calling and let's have an adult discussion.
Michele February 27, 2014 at 04:50 PM
Bryan Harz February 27, 2014 at 06:04 PM
<exaggerated sigh> good thing I wan't expecting an intelligent response.
Brook Hubbard February 27, 2014 at 06:27 PM
Bryan, just flag their previous post (veiled foul language is also a violation) and move on. There's no reasonable discussion with some people.
Michele March 04, 2014 at 03:40 PM
Bryan.....do some further research. Pot IS addictive, DOES harm internal organs and your brain (obviously), and DOES break up families.
Brook Hubbard March 04, 2014 at 05:50 PM
Michele, please provide evidence to support your claims, particularly from peer-reviewed articles or reliable research institutes.
Bryan Harz March 05, 2014 at 01:09 PM
I'm sure Michele and I can both come up with articles and studies that support each of our claims. That will get us nowhere. So I will speak from what I have read, observed, and experienced. I don't believe pot is addictive because there are no physical withdraw symptoms when a user does not "get their fix". Alcoholics, cigarette smokers, and hard drug users NEED their fix or their body goes though a period of physical withdraw with symptoms such as fever, sweating, shaking, increased heart rate, and sometimes seizures. Take pot away from a smoker and he becomes "super bummed". Let's not confuse addictive with habit forming. They are very different. Pot is definitely habit forming.
Bryan Harz March 05, 2014 at 01:18 PM
When pot is smoked in a traditional way it does harm lungs and affects the brain (obviously) If ingested then there is no harm to the lungs. I haven't read anything that is conclusive on harm to the brain, but from observing some of my friends, it doesn't help. Ha! I will honestly agree then that it does affect the brain, but would not agree that it causes permanent brain damage (even with heavy use)
Brook Hubbard March 05, 2014 at 01:25 PM
"I'm sure Michele and I can both come up with articles and studies that support each of our claims." Actually, that is incorrect. As someone with an education in human behavior and psychology, who has written literature reviews and advocacy campaigns on substance abuse and addiction, I have found no valid evidence to support her claims. Therefore I would like to know what sources she is using other than personal belief or anecdote.
Bryan Harz March 05, 2014 at 01:26 PM
I have honestly never heard of a family or relationship ending because someone used pot, other than the spouse who doesn't smoke being intolerant and leaving. Potheads normally do not spend their rent or mortgage on weed and it does not cause violent or erratic behavior that would cause a spouse to leave. I have not been able to find a study or article that provides any evidence either way, just claims.
Bryan Harz March 05, 2014 at 01:28 PM
Michele, thank you for coming back to have some real dialog. I usually tend to learn something from good discussions and may see your point, but I never learn anything from someone calling me names and yelling in caps that I'm wrong. I look forward to your response.
Bryan Harz March 05, 2014 at 01:39 PM
Brook, based on your credentials I'm sure you are well qualified to provide real information and I respect that. But there are studies and articles scattered all over the Internet that contradict each other and I'd rather not get into a URL war. I am not a psychology or human behavior specialist, but I appreciate a good discussion and am always open to learning.
Brook Hubbard March 05, 2014 at 01:56 PM
Most of the information that contradicts each other doesn't come from peer-reviewed research, but rather lobbyist and special interest websites as well as blogs, media, or other unreliable sources. Many of these quoted information taken out of context, made erroneous conclusions based on data (especially causal fallacies), or are referring to studies that have long since been proven invalid or unreliable. That's why I don't recommend typical Internet searches (including Google or Wikipedia) that can pull up these types of websites. Instead, careful perusal of academic libraries, especially peer-reviewed articles and studies from the last 5 years, is where I recommend people start. I concur there is no need for a URL war, as reliable sources won't necessarily be found via URL but by DOI.
Bryan Harz March 05, 2014 at 03:04 PM
DOI - Digital Object Identifier - a unique alphanumeric string assigned by a registration agency (the International DOI Foundation) to identify content and provide a persistent link to its location on the Web. -- I just learned something.
Michele March 06, 2014 at 11:00 AM
Open your eyes and look around....you'll find all the evidence you need. Don't live in a box.
Bryan Harz March 06, 2014 at 02:41 PM
My eyes are wide open, thank you very much. I get out more than most and don't need anonymous jerks telling me where to live. Cretan.
Brook Hubbard March 06, 2014 at 03:03 PM
Michele, are you refusing to present any evidence of your allegations about the effects of marijuana use? Please note that this is a request not from someone "living in a box" but who specializes in human behavior, has researched substance abuse and addiction, and has not found anything to support your claims. Do you or do you not have any valid and reliable sources to support your statements?
Bryan Harz March 06, 2014 at 04:34 PM
Michele, pardon me, I meant cretin, calling you a cretan is an insult to the people of Crete.
Michele March 10, 2014 at 10:01 AM
It's futile trying to reason with people who choose to see only what they want, and not what's really going on in this world! good-bye
Michael Ernest March 10, 2014 at 11:37 AM
Colorado is off to a good start since they legalized recreational pot. They almost immediately discovered a new revenue source from it-fines for driving under the influence. Just what MD needs is some pot heads on the road!
Bryan Harz March 10, 2014 at 11:44 AM
Michele, not once did you try to reason or discuss, you simply blabbed your opinion and then when challenged you started name-calling. I assumed you were a 14 yr old internet troll in your mom's basement pretending to have adult discussions. Moving on.
Bryan Harz March 10, 2014 at 11:49 AM
Michael, from what I've read that is the only issue CO is having with legalized pot. And it is a real issue. I wish folks would be more responsible when driving. Other than that one issue I think things are going very well for them. There are more pot dispensaries in Denver than there are Starbucks. Now that's saying a lot, considering Starbucks will sometimes open a new store across the street from an existing one!
Michele March 10, 2014 at 11:59 AM
Bryan...before I sign off of this site for good, you just brought to mind one more side effect of pot....it makes people like you nasty and defensive if someone doesn't agree with you.
Brook Hubbard March 10, 2014 at 12:02 PM
And you know Bryan smokes pot how, Michele? Because he doesn't agree with your unsupported allegations about marijuana? If you have nothing intelligent or educated to say, then you should stay out of these discussions.
Michele March 10, 2014 at 12:04 PM
Case in point!!!
Bryan Harz March 10, 2014 at 12:19 PM
Look at your own previous posts and you'll see who's really nasty! In case you've forgotten "Dream on, Dopers! I definitely don't want my employees coming to work stoned. I guess you don't mind a policeman or fireman responding to an emergency all f***ck-d up. GET REAL" Go sign off until you learn to have actual dialogue.


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