State lawmakers in Maryland are introducing legislation today that would regulate and tax cannabis similar to alcohol. The proposal consists of two bills – a regulation bill and a tax bill – that will each be filed in the Senate and the House.
The regulation bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) and Del. Curt Anderson (D-Montgomery) would make possession and home cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis legal for adults 21 years of age and older. Public consumption of cannabis would still be illegal, as would driving under the influence.
The proposed bill would also take into account prior convictions related to cannabis. Adults 21 and older who possessed or grew amounts of cannabis made lawful by the bill would have those prior convictions expunged. The bill would also create a structure for licensing and regulating a limited number of cannabis retail stores, manufactures, testing facilities, cultivation facilities, and craft cultivators.
“This legislation will effectively end the failed policy of cannabis prohibition in Maryland and replace it with a much more sensible system,” Sen. Madaleno said in a prepared statement. “It establishes a thoughtful regulatory scheme and tax structure based on best practices and lessons learned from other states.”
The tax bill, sponsored by Madaleno in the Senate, and Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) in the House, would create a taxation structure for cannabis along with guidelines about how the revenue should be allocated.
“Colorado and other states are raising millions of dollars in new revenue each month and creating thousands of good jobs,” Madaleno said. “Maryland is not only missing out on the benefits, but enduring the many problems associated with prohibition.”
The tax bill would initially enact a wholesale excise tax of $30 per ounce, and a 9 percent tax on retail cannabis sales—which mirrors the state’s current tax rates for alcohol. More than half of the cannabis tax revenue will go to a community schools program: 25 percent for substance abuse treatment and prevention; 15 percent for workforce development programs; and 10 percent for combating impaired driving through public education and additional law enforcement training.
According to Del. Mary Washington, sponsor of the tax bill in the House, ending cannabis prohibition will generate a much needed boost in funding within the state.
“Tax revenue from cannabis sales will generate much-needed funds for our state,” Washington said. “Our tax bill will allocate half of the revenues from cannabis taxes to the community schools program, which benefits high-poverty schools across Maryland. It will also provide funding for treatment services that are needed to address our state’s battle with opioid addiction.”
Sen. William C. Smith, the primary co-sponsor of the regulation bill in the Senate, said that decriminalization simply does not do enough.
“African Americans are far more likely to be the subject of marijuana enforcement than other Marylanders,” Smith said. “Decriminalization reduces the number of Marylanders who are branded criminals, but it does not change the fact that marijuana laws are not enforced equally, and that people of color are disproportionately punished.”
He added: “Decriminalization also does nothing to stop the public safety issues that arise when a lucrative market is driven underground. It’s time to put marijuana sales behind the counter, and to let adults make their own decisions about using a substance that is safer than alcohol.”
Sixty-four percent of likely Maryland voters support making cannabis legal for adults, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll conducted in September 2016.