About three in four Maryland voters support legalizing marijuana, a new poll found just weeks before the state is decide on the reform at the ballot.
The survey from The Washington Post and University of Maryland showed that 73 percent of registered voters back legalization, and there’s majority support among every demographic that was polled, including Republicans (53 percent).
Democrats (78 percent), independents (81 percent) and young people under 40 (87 percent) were among the most enthusiastic about ending prohibition.
Legalizing an entire industry is complex, especially a regulated industry like this. And we have some real challenges. How to ensure that minority and female entrepreneurs have an equitable shot at owning a cannabis business. How to drive out the illegal market.
— Delegate Eric Luedtke (@EricLuedtke) October 5, 2022
Even the oldest demographic of people 65 and older backs legalization at 52 percent.
With respect to race, 70 percent of white people and 77 percent of Black people said they’re in favor of legalizing marijuana.
The legislature is already thinking through these questions, led in part by my colleague @LukeClippinger. My hope is that at the end of the day we can look back and say that Maryland did this better than any other state.
— Delegate Eric Luedtke (@EricLuedtke) October 5, 2022
“The thing that stood out to me is the high level of support and the diversity of support,” Michael Hanmer, director of University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement, said. “Whether you look across party, region, almost every characteristic, you see majorities supporting this.”
“That’s been the trend across the country,” he said. “People have really shifted their views across time on this issue, all pointing in the direction of being more supportive.”
Maryland House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke (D) said on Wednesday that he will be voting in favor of legalization at the ballot, but he added that the vote is “the beginning of the conversation.”
This new data bodes well for the referendum that was placed on the ballot by an act of the legislature.
The pollster prompted respondents with the exact language of Question 4 that’s going before voters: “Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1st, 2023, in the state of Maryland?”
73% of Maryland voters favor legalizing cannabis according to a Post-UMD poll. That includes me.
Yes we should #LegalizeIt , but we should also expunge records, release everyone incarcerated for possession & make the industry equitable for communities impacted by the racist WoD
— Del. Gabriel Acevero (@GabrielAcevero) October 5, 2022
The survey involved interviews with 810 registered Maryland voters from September 22-27, with a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.
Support is significantly higher in this new poll compared to other recent surveys, including one released last month that found 59 percent of Maryland voters want to legalize cannabis.
If voters pass the legalization referendum, it would trigger the implementation of another bill providing regulations for an adult-use market that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) allowed to take effect without his signature. And that legislation does include expungements provisions.
Under the complementary law that would be enacted if voters approve legalization, the purchase and possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis would be legal for adults. The legislation also would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to 2.5 ounces. Adults 21 and older would be allowed to grow up to two plants for personal use and gift cannabis without remuneration.
Past convictions for conduct made legal under the proposed law would be automatically expunged, and people currently serving time for such offenses would be eligible for resentencing. The legislation makes it so people with convictions for possession with intent to distribute could petition the courts for expungement three years after serving out their time.
The legalization bill was amended throughout the legislative process. For example, language was attached to create a community reinvestment fund and allow state tax deductions for certain cannabis-related expenses that marijuana businesses are barred from claiming under current federal tax code.
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If voters pass the referendum question, the reform wouldn’t take effect immediately. Possession of small amounts of cannabis would become a civil offense on January 1, 2023, punishable by a $100 fine for up to 1.5 ounces, or $250 for more than 1.5 ounces and up to 2.5 ounces. Legalization for up to 1.5 ounces wouldn’t kick in for another six months.
Advocates have taken issue with that protracted timeline. Having possession legalization take effect sooner was among several asks they made that were not incorporated into the legislation. For example, activists also wanted lawmakers to include a provision preventing police from using the odor of marijuana alone as the basis for a search.
Meanwhile, Maryland activists recently launched a statewide campaign to urge voters to pass the referendum.
The MDCAN 22 “Vote Yes On 4” campaign, which is being led by former NFL player Eugene Monroe, announced the new push last month, promoting a new website and video ad with information about the reform proposal.
Del. Luke Clippinger (D), who sponsored both the ballot question and implementation legislation, also served as the chair of the Maryland House Cannabis Referendum and Legalization Workgroup, which met regularly to take initial steps to prepare to pass marijuana legislation.
The panel, formed by House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D), discussed licensing and regulatory issues at its meetings, with members hearing expert testimony on the current marijuana policy landscape to help inform their approach in the future.
Clippinger said at one meeting that it was important for members to “prioritize equity in our efforts and ensure that we were recognizing and addressing the impact the war on cannabis has inflicted, particularly on brown and Black communities.”
Adult-use legalization began to advance through Maryland’s legislature in the 2021 session, but no votes were ultimately held. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing last year on a legalization bill, which followed a House Judiciary Committee hearing on a separate cannabis proposal.
Maryland legalized medical marijuana through an act of the legislature in 2012. Two years later, a decriminalization law took effect that replaced criminal penalties for possession of less than 10 grams with a civil fine of $100 to $500.
Meanwhile, the governor separately allowed a bill to create a state fund to provide “cost-free” access to psychedelics like psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury to take effect without his signature this year.
Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.