Maryland advocates say a ‘yes’ result in a 2022 state referendum on cannabis legalization should make weed legal on the spot.
At a Tuesday meeting of Maryland’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), members discussed policy recommendations for the General Assembly’s next legislative session. At the center of the group’s agenda is a recent proposal by Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones to put legalization on next year’s ballot.
Luke Jones, legislative director of Maryland NORML, said a referendum on legalization would be pointless if it doesn’t automatically legalize cannabis across the state upon approval by voters.
“If [a referendum] does not contain a self-executing provision, then it will have achieved nothing in terms of a policy result, other than informing the General Assembly what the will of the voters is, which we already know, that’s what the public wants,” Jones said at the meeting.
The majority of Maryland residents have supported cannabis legalization since 2015, including most Republicans for the first time in 2020, according to annual polling by Goucher College.
Maryland NORML, which is part of a larger coalition of cannabis advocacy organizations tasked with making recommendations to the General Assembly, wants to ensure a 2022 referendum will legalize the use, possession and home cultivation of pot “with no further legislative action needed.” The Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition has put forward draft legislation that would authorize the possession of up to four ounces of cannabis and the home cultivation of up to six plants per household.
Over the last few years, Maryland NORML has lobbied for various legalization bills, including a proposal by Del. Jazz Lewis’ that died in part due to unresolved differences with a largely similar bill by Sen. Brian Feldman. Following that failure, House leadership decided to leave the question of legalization to voters rather than the legislature.
Another priority for Maryland NORML this year is to ensure people can grow their own weed at home. Jones said he was frustrated by a recent conversation with Del. Eric Luedtke during which the politician, a Montgomery County Democrat, allegedly told him that home cultivation could be legalized under the condition that amateur growers register with the state.
“I wasn’t very happy with what I was hearing,” said Jones.
“That means that the people who can get away with it are fine and are within the law, but it means that certain parts of our community get wrapped up in doing it without permission,” he continued. “They get a charge, and have to show up in court. It’s insane. It’s ridiculous.”
Jones said that asking home cultivators to register with the state could end up hurting lower-income Marylanders. “At the end of the day, it just lets wealthy people pass through the hoops and filters out and captures people at the end of the economic ladder in some sort of web of illegality,” he said.
Another advocate named Bryan said that NORML should be pushing back against any attempt by the state to regulate cannabis.
“My heart still believes that [cannabis] should be regulated like tomatoes are,” he said. “And I want to make sure that we as advocates and users don’t lose sight of the fact that the ultimate goal is zero regulation.”
Maryland NORML holds virtual meetings on the first Tuesday of each month. The group’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m..
Correction: This story was updated to reflect that NORML’s Luke Jones had a conversation with Del. Eric Luedtke about home cultivation in Maryland. A previous version of the story erroneously stated that Jones had spoken to Del. Luke Clippinger. Jones notified The Outlaw Report on Friday that he had accidentally mixed up the names of the two politicians at the meeting on Tuesday.