Maryland’s legislature is starting to lay the groundwork to put the question of cannabis legalization before voters in 2022.
Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) pre-filed a bill on Wednesday that would place legalization on the ballot for a referendum in November. The legislation – dubbed HB 1 – has been assigned to the House’s Judiciary Committee and is set to be formally introduced when the General Assembly reconvenes on January 12. It was first noticed by Marijuana Moment.
Clippinger’s bill would amend Maryland’s constitution to authorize the use and possession of cannabis for people who are 21 and older starting on July 1, 2023. If passed, state voters would be posed the following question:
“Do you favor the legalization of adult-use cannabis in the State of Maryland?”
The measure would also set the stage for retail weed by allowing the distribution, regulation and taxation of cannabis, though it doesn’t establish rules for a regulated market or specify a timeline for its launch.
As chair of the House’s Judiciary committee, Clippinger will be well positioned to expedite his legislation for a markup. He should also benefit from the backing of House Speaker Adrienne Jones, who in July announced her support for legalization and appointed Clippinger as chair of a 10-member workgroup to study the issue. The panel has discussed cannabis taxation, social equity, public health, criminal justice, and even weed’s legal history.
But Clippinger’s measure could face resistance from advocates, who in August said they would only support a legalization bill if it allowed residents to cultivate weed at home. Some may also be disappointed the bill won’t make weed consumption legal until summer of 2023, and could pressure the General Assembly to speed up that timeline.
It’s also unclear whether Gov. Larry Hogan, whose term-limited seat will be up for grabs in November, would sign a bill to legalize recreational weed. The Republican has yet to take an official stance on legalization, though he said in 2018 that the issue was “worth looking at” and has signed legislation to expand Maryland’s existing medical cannabis program.
The momentum towards legalization has been building over the last few years in Maryland. In 2021, Del. Jazz Lewis and Sen. Brian Feldman separately filed two legalization bills, though neither ended up receiving a vote. Some advocates said the bills failed because Lewis and Feldman couldn’t resolve minor differences between their proposals.
Last spring, a Goucher College poll found roughly two-third of Marylanders are in favor of legalizing cannabis, including a majority of Republican voters. Support for legalization has steadily increased since 2013, when Goucher began surveying voters on the issue.