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House Bill 32 : Legalizing Cannabis in Maryland in the Maryland General Assembly 2021 MDGA21 HB32

House Bill 32 would effectively legalize Cannabis in Maryland, free incarcerated people, automatically expunge and seal records, protect parolees and those on probation, restore visitation rights, create jobs, create taxable income for the state (and particularly affected communities), provide for the regulation of product quality, prevent diversion to those under 21, and start to address some of the systematically disproportionate impact on certain communities.

HB 32 was introduced by Delegate J. Lewis in January of this year but has stalled in the Judiciary committee with no further movement since February 2021. I would encourage you to reach out to your delegate / senator and the Speaker of the House (410-841-3800 or adrienne.jones@house.state.md.us) / Senate President and tell them that enough is enough. We have more pressing matters than to keep incarcerating Marylanders for a plant.

Below are some highlights of House Bill 32 with minimal commentary:

The personal use amount is increased from 10grams to 2 ounces / 15 grams of concentrate / or 6 plants.

Such legalization would be retroactive in that it would seek to go back and undo some of the harm inflicted on members of our community by freeing them from incarceration, probation, parole, and restoring their visitation / custodial rights as parents. We want strong families. For far too long, we’ve been throwing Americans, Marylanders in cages for a plant.

While HB32 goes a long way on addressing past harms for those in possession of cannabis for use or cultivation, it could be strengthened to help address the harm that was and is being inflicted on those who sold cannabis to support themselves and their families- as HB32 does give the Court quite a bit more discretion to resentence sale-based cannabis offenses rather than the “shall release” language of those in possession.

A criminal record can be disastrous to a young adult’s future in education, college grants, employment, government service, law school admission, character and fitness for the state bar and other endeavors. Surely, we should act immediately to avoid further harm. Kids are kids and they may make mistakes – but should we hold that against them and ruin their futures? HB32 addresses this by removing cannabis-related offenses from the criminal courts and by expunging records.

While 49 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico (53 jurisdictions) have said NO to outright cannabis prohibition in some form (e.g. legalized, decriminalized, medicinal) – all diverging from Federal law and schedule 1 (high abuse potential and no medical use), the Federal government still has a zero tolerance policy, classifying cannabis as more dangerous than cocaine, meth, fentanyl. HB32 recognizes that the Federal position is absurd, dangerous, and unsupportable by the record. Maryland’s HB32 seeks to invoke a Tenth Amendment approach of prohibiting conscription of state and local agents by federal agents in their continued war on cannabis users by disallowing any state or local resources, time, money, or information sharing.

Beyond freeing incarcerated, paroled, or people caught in the probation system, beyond reuniting families with their loved ones and restoring parents to their children, beyond expunging records, beyond creating jobs, allowing for the entrepreneurial spirit, HB32 goes further in acknowledging the very selective enforcement found by the ACLU in 2014 of a 3 to 1 direct disproportionate impact and collateral damage to certain communities of color and seeks to shepherd use of the tax revenues towards restorative justice, social equity, and ameliorating the damage done to those hardest-hit communities.

I hope you will reach out to your Maryland delegates and senators, and the Speaker of the House and demand that she put house bill 32 up for a vote THIS YEAR! We should immediately stop throwing Marylanders in cages for a plant and start addressing the grave damage done to our communities.

If I’ve missed something or you have comments, please feel free to comment below. I am not a parliamentary or legislative expert.