Maryland considers legalizing marijuana - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Maryland considers legalizing marijuana

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ANNAPOLIS, Md - Sixteen states have decriminalized marijuana, and a couple of states have legalized the sale of pot.  Legislators in Maryland are now considering changing the rules on smoking weed. 
The CDC estimates about 7 percent of Americans smoke marijuana regularly.  According to the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 1 million people a year are arrested for possessing or selling pot, and even though studies show users are both white and black, African Americans tend to be arrested for pot far more often than are whites.
Sara Love, of the ACLU of Maryland, told state senators in Annapolis, today, “In Montgomery Co., African Americans are 18 percent of the population, but 46 percent of the possession [arrests].”
Maryland’s legislature is considering changing the rules on marijuana in two different ways.  One bill would make possession of small amounts a civil infraction.  Violators would be fined.  Adult violators wouldn’t even have to go to court.  Sponsor, Sen.  Robert Zirkin (D—Baltimore Co.), says de-decriminalization in 16 states is already working:  “All the things you hear that might happen, there has not been an increased use of marijuana in those states.  There has not been an increased use of gateway drugs, cocaine or heroin.  There has not been an increase in drugged driving offenses.”
A different bill would make marijuana legal, and allow the state to tax it. 
Sen. Jamie Raskin (D – Montgomery Co.), is a primary sponsor of that legislation.  Raskin told the Senate Committee on Judicial Affairs,   “We’re going to be able to improve public safety and public health much better by regulating and taxing marijuana, and putting the drug dealers out of business.
Dozens of sheriffs and police commanders descended on Annapolis to tell legislators to keep marijuana illegal.  Wicomicao Co. Sheriff Mike Lewis (R) told reporters:   “I cannot imagine anyone in this room wanting to get into a vehicle with your loved one and go to the store or go to a restaurant knowing that marijuana was legalized here in the State of Md.  There will be catastrophic effects that will affect everyone.” 
The committee appeared divided on whether marijuana should be legalized outright, but members seemed quite supportive of the bill to de-criminalize the substance.  A similar bill passed the committee and the full Senate last year, but companion legislation never got out of committee in the Maryland House. 
Proponents say they will try again in both chambers.

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