The issue of legalizing marijuana in Maryland had its first committee hearing on Tuesday, with lawmakers considering a bill to regulate adult-use cannabis and earmark large portions of industry tax revenue for programs aimed at communities disproportionately harmed by the drug war.
“This bill ends Maryland’s failed policy of cannabis prohibition and replaces it with a system to test and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and older,” Del. Jazz Lewis (D), the sponsor of HB 32, said at the House Judiciary Committee hearing.
The measure “takes marijuana production and sales off the streets and ensures regulated, labeled, lab-tested products while creating thousands of new good jobs, businesses and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue to serve the community,” Lewis said.
The House panel heard more than two hours of testimony and debate on the bill at Tuesday’s hearing but ultimately did not vote on whether to advance the measure.
HB 32 is one of two marijuana legalization measures before Maryland lawmakers this year. The other is SB 708, introduced by Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair Brian Feldman (D) and cosponsored by top Senate Democrats including the body’s president and majority leader. That measure is scheduled to be heard by a Senate committee on March 4.
Lewis said when he filed the bill in December that he introduced the legislation “because we have the data and popular opinion on our side to end prohibition.”
At Tuesday’s hearing, Lewis announced amendments meant to harmonize his proposal with the Senate legislation. Among the biggest changes, are decreased taxes and cutting the maximum number of marijuana retail licenses in half, from 200 to 100.
The biggest remaining difference between the two chambers’ bills, Lewis said, is that HB 32 would allow state regulators to issue an unlimited number of microbusiness