Ralph E. Moore Jr.

By Ralph E. Moore Jr.,
Special to the AFRO

Change has been coming to Maryland for some time now. Voters in Maryland approved legalizing marijuana in the fall election last year. The results: 1,302,161 “yes” votes to 635,572 “no” votes.

It was a landslide win, with 67.20 percent in favor of joining the many states in America where recreational marijuana is legal: Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, D.C., California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Michigan, Vermont, Guam, Illinois, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, New Mexico, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Missouri and now Maryland

But now, the state government has to set up a system for growing, selling and applying taxes to the marijuana sales by July 1, 2023, the date when it actually becomes legal to those old enough to purchase it. 

Medical marijuana (cannabis) has actually been legal already in our state for some time.  At the time of the election, marijuana was legal for medicinal use in Maryland under a 2013 law. In April 2014, possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana was decriminalized by the General Assembly. Decriminalized and legal are not the same.

In advance of state program development, the Office of Equity and Civil Rights has announced that they will host a panel discussion on Feb. 16  regarding Maryland’s cannabis industry and the inequities that exist between what is now legal a legal trade and the many Black and Brown people who are hobbled by past criminal records for marijuana use and sales.  

The office is inviting a representative from the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union to share and unpack the legal ramifications of the new legislation on this emerging industry.

The panel will be held at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, beginning at 6 p.m. with refreshments followed by the discussion at 6:30 p.m.” 

According to Dana P. Moore, director of the Office of Equity and Civil Rights (and my wife), “the public is invited to hear the presentations and get answers to any questions they may have.” 

Moore says that “one of the goals of the forum, in addition to educating the public, is to help those previously incarcerated for possession and sales of marijuana to get consideration in clearing their records of marijuana charges and helping folks learn how to apply for a license to sell marijuana legally. We hope that some priority can be given to those who have paid their debt to society for something that is no longer illegal and in fact has shown to be very profitable in other states.”  

A knowledgeable panel is being assembled including: Dayvon Love, political organizer and co-founder of the grassroots think-tank “that advances the public policy interests of Black people,” and Yanet Amanuel, the public policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU-MD). Dr. Octavia Simkins-Wiseman and her daughter, Hope Wiseman, who along with Dr. Larry Bryant, own Mary and Main, a medical marijuana dispensary in North Capitol Heights, Md. will also be panelists.

The hope is that people will come to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, learn what their rights are and become informed of opportunities in the cannabis industry.  For further information, call John Milton Wesley at John.Wesley@baltimorecity.gov and 410-396-8858.

Smoking marijuana is an old vice, but it’s still a growing American pastime which, with hope, will be participated in responsibly similar to expectations of drinking and gambling. “Personal responsibility” and “all things in moderation,” and “don’t drive drunk” and “don’t drive when you’re high” are watch words.

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