Leaders Roll Out Membership Roster for Joint Committee on Legal Cannabis

    Legislative leaders formally announced the creation of a joint committee to study marijuana legalization in the state of Maryland.

    As first reported by Maryland Matters, the 18-member panel will be chaired by Senate Judicial Proceedings Chair Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) and House Majority Leader Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery).

    The panel will examine the benefits and hurdles of establishing a legal recreational marijuana industry in the state.

    “With our sister states moving to legalization, it is time for the General Assembly to take an in-depth look at this issue,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said in a statement. “With the complex myriad of questions around legalization, I am confident our Senators and Delegates will examine these topics with recommendations for possible votes in the 2020 Session.”

    While the legislature has passed laws establishing medical marijuana use in the state and decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug, legalization bills have faced obstacles in recent year.

    The Cannabis Workgroup includes Montgomery County Del. David Moon, who is sponsoring a legalization bill this year that has 29 cosponsors. Two other bills are also pending this year, from chief sponsors Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery) and Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery), though the bills are unlikely to get votes this session.

    The workgroup is expected to issue a report by Dec. 31, which could allow for legislation to be passed during the 2020 session and for the issue to be placed on the ballot in the General Election if the issue goes to referendum.

    The workgroup is specifically charged with examining:

    • The health and criminal justice impacts of legalizing recreational cannabis;
    • Possible tax and licensing structures, and other states’ regulatory models and best practices;
    • Challenges relating to federal tax and banking laws; and
    • Ways the state can ensure and promote small, minority and women-owned business participation.

    Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use.

    “With many states exploring legalizing marijuana use, President Miller and I want to make sure legislators understand all of the complexities of legalization and are prepared if, indeed, we move forward,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).

    Other members of the workgroup are House Ways & Means Vice Chair Jay Walker (D-Prince George’s), House Judiciary Vice Chair Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard), House Economic Matters Vice Chair Eric Bromwell (D-Baltimore County), House Minority Leader Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel), House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County), Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg (D-Baltimore City), Del. Nick Mosby (D-Baltimore City), Senate Budget & Taxation Vice Chair Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), Senate Finance Vice Chair Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery), Senate Minority Whip Stephen S. Hershey Jr. (R-Upper Shore), Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City), Sen. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George’s), Sen. Douglas J. J. Peters (D-Prince George’s), Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery), and Sen. Christopher R. West (R-Baltimore County).

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    Danielle E. Gaines
    Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.