By Deborah Bailey,
Maryland voters responded positively to a ballot measure on Nov. 8 that legalized recreational use of marijuana for residents 21 and over. The law reform will go into effect across the state starting July 1, 2023.
The fourth Maryland ballot question was approved by slightly more than 65 percent of residents. Thirty-five percent of votes cast were in opposition.
Maryland joins a growing list of states that have decriminalized marijuana use in recent years, choosing instead to cash in on regulating the substance for both medicinal and recreational use.
Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones has long been an advocate of legalizing cannabis, out of concern for the disproportionate numbers of Black and Brown persons arrested and convicted for low-level drug charges.
At this week’s pre-election rally at Bowie State University, U.S. Congressman Anthony Brown (D-Md.) who was elected as Maryland’s first Black attorney general on Election Day, said that marijuana charges have been responsible for creating criminal records for a disproportionate number of Black men for years.
“Legalization would end the practice of placing Black men in jail for using cannabis,” he said. “No one should be in jail for the mere possession of marijuana.
In addition to Maryland, Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota also sponsored ballot initiatives seeking legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
Missouri was the only other state in addition to Maryland where the ballot measure legalizing cannabis passed. Missouri had previously passed legislation decriminalizing cannabis for personal use in 2014, but the November ballot initiative fully legalized cannabis for medical as well as recreational use.
Ballot measures in Arkansas, North and South Dakota failed.
The Maryland House of Delegates will now sponsor legislation in January 2023 that spells out regulations for cannabis use.
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