By Emma Reilly
The state of Maryland is reassessing its stance on marijuana. On Feb. 25, the Maryland House of Delegates passed bills intended to put the issue of legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot. The bill is now up for consideration in the Maryland Senate.
The state’s consideration of the bills follows the recent trend of state-level cannabis decriminalization in the United States. According to The National Law Review, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Mexico, and Virginia all legalized the substance to some degree in 2021.
Federally, marijuana remains a Schedule I substance in accordance with the Controlled Substance Act.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Maryland’s new legislation provides for the addition of a state constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis. If it passes, Maryland voters will weigh in on the amendment in November to determine whether the state will legalize recreational marijuana consumption for residents age 21 or older.
This bill would benefit Maryland residents by decriminalizing a substance that can be highly beneficial.
According to a Vox analysis of an in-depth marijuana and cannabinoid research review, marijuana has been known to reduce chronic pain, ease the effects of chemotherapy-induced nausea, and aid with sleep disturbances associated with multiple sclerosis.
Many people who suffer from health concerns not listed by Vox also find that marijuana eases their symptoms.
According to the Maryland Cannabis Commission, state residents with anorexia, glaucoma, chronic pain, seizures, and post-traumatic stress disorder may qualify for a medical marijuana card.
Marijuana is not a cure for any illness, but it can be used to manage symptoms and ease discomfort. This aid should not be limited to people who suffer from these specific health issues. If the substance is legalized in Maryland, people with conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, arthritis, and more could mitigate their symptoms in the same way individuals with qualifying conditions can.
Additionally, legalizing marijuana would streamline access for medical users by omitting lengthy approval and registration processes. Passage of the new Maryland bills will add convenience for individuals in need of marijuana for symptom alleviation.
As the state considers legalization, decriminalizaion should be its focus.
According to Rockville, Md. criminal justice lawyer Kush Arora, “Maryland has lowered the penalties for possession of less than 10 grams of the substance to a civil penalty and fine” in an effort to decriminalize possession of cannabis.
These decriminalization efforts were initially put into effect in 2014 with the passage of Maryland Senate Bill 364. According to the Public News Service, Maryland’s marijuana-related arrest number that year was the fourth highest in the nation.
Despite making changes to the consequences for possession, the state remains complicit in a discriminatory system.
Data collected by the American Civil Liberties Union says that Black people are arrested nearly three times more than white people for marijuana possession in Kent County.
Incarceration for marijuana usage is an issue nationwide, especially due to the racial biases that play into criminal possession charges. Decriminalization, and the eventual legalization, of marijuana will have a significant impact on racialized perceptions of the substance. If all Marylanders are allowed access to the drug, unfair marijuana possession arrests will occur less frequently.
Issues of access and equity should drive Maryland senators’ decisions regarding legalization. Likewise, should the state’s new bills be approved, Maryland voters should remember the health and social benefits that will arise from widespread availability of marijuana.