ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that would regulate cannabis similarly to alcohol. Supporters of the proposal, including a former Maryland narcotics officer and a public health researcher, will hold a pre-hearing media availability at 12:30 p.m. ET directly outside the hearing room (Miller Senate Office Building, 2 East Wing).
SB 928, sponsored by Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), would make possession and home cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis legal for adults 21 years of age and older. It would remain illegal to consume cannabis in public or drive under the influence. Prior convictions for possessing or growing amounts of cannabis made lawful by the bill would be expunged for individuals who were 21 or older at the time of the conviction.
“I’m a retired narcotics officer and Maryland native, and I support regulating marijuana for adult use because it will make our state safer,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, who plans to testify at the hearing Thursday. “Decriminalizing marijuana took the crime out of possessing it, but it did not address the criminal element associated with production and sales. Maryland’s prohibition system is keeping dangerous illegal growers and dealers in business. Adopting a tightly regulated system of licensed cultivators and sellers will weaken criminals who endanger our children, communities, and police officers.”
SB 928 also addresses concerns that were raised about the licensing process for medical cannabis businesses. Specifically, it provides opportunities for small businesses, ensures the licensing process is subject to the Minority Business Enterprise Program, and requires outreach to diverse communities to ensure they are aware of new business opportunities. The bill also contains strong provisions aimed at protecting public health and safety, such as mandatory product testing and labeling; restrictions on advertising and marketing; and rules requiring edible products to be limited to a single serving of THC and packaged in opaque, child-resistant packaging.
“Cannabis is less addictive than alcohol and many other drugs,” said Dr. Fernando Wagner, a public health researcher and professor at the Morgan State University School of Community Health and Policy, who plans to testify at the hearing Thursday. “From a public health perspective, allowing adults to purchase cannabis in a regulated market would be far better than forcing them to buy it in an illicit market.
“The claim that marijuana is a ‘gateway drug’ to opioids and other prescription medicines is not supported by scientific research,” Wagner said. “In fact, there have been promising studies that indicate making cannabis legally available can help people reduce their use of opioids. This potential benefit is deserving of serious consideration at a time when our state is facing an opioid crisis.”
WHAT: Media availability prior to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing on SB 928, which would regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol in Maryland
WHEN: Media availability at 12:30 p.m. ET, hearing at 1 p.m. ET
WHERE: Miller Senate Office Building, 2 East Wing, 11 Bladen St., Annapolis; the media availability will take place directly outside the hearing room
WHO: Kate Bell, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project
Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), retired narcotics officer, executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Dr. Fernando Wagner, public health researcher and professor at Morgan State University School of Community Health and Policy
Rachelle Yeung, public policy counsel for the ACLU of Maryland
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The Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition is a coalition of citizens and organizations committed to ending the failed policy of cannabis prohibition and replacing it with a system in which cannabis is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. For more information, visithttp://www.MarylandCannabisPolicy.org.