MARIJUANA – A MAJOR ISSUE IN 2014 / NEW MOBILE APP FOR CONTACTING REPRESENTATIVES

January 22, 2014

TO:  THE PEOPLE OF LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 8

MARIJUANA – A MAJOR ISSUE IN 2014 / NEW MOBILE APP FOR CONTACTING REPRESENTATIVES

 

With Colorado and Washington changing their stance on the legalization of marijuana, many proposals concerning the possession and use of marijuana will be considered in Maryland during this session. 

Legislation is being circulated to allow anyone over 21 years of age to expunge his or her teenage criminal record for possession of a small amount of marijuana.  I support this proposal because I believe that this type of criminal record should not be a life long noose around a person’s neck, costing him or her job opportunities and the constant apprehension of being regarded as a criminal.  It should be noted that Maryland has the fourth highest arrest rate in the nation for marijuana possession. There are about 47,000 arrests a year in the state for this activity.

Decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana – up to 10 grams - will also be considered.  The bill makes possession a civil rather than a criminal offense and calls for a $100 civil fine as the penalty for possession rather than a jail term.  Current law calls for a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail for possession of trace amounts of up to 10 grams of marijuana.  Last year, the measure won Senate approval 30-16, but died in the House.  Filling our jails with those guilty of possession of small amounts of marijuana has not solved any facet of the drug addiction problem.  Seventeen states have some form of decriminalization.  I haven’t decided how I will vote on such decriminalization; however, I am leaning strongly toward a yea vote.  It should be emphasized that federal law outlaws marijuana, although possession of small amounts is rarely prosecuted on a federal level.  Federal law, clearly in conflict with states’ decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, still equates marijuana with harder drugs like heroin.  There has been a clear shift in how people regard marijuana laws today.  Gallup polls show that the percentage of Americans who think marijuana should be legalized has increased from 12% in 1969 to 58% in 2013.  Regardless of my vote on decriminalization, I absolutely disagree with the classification of marijuana as a schedule one drug. 

Legalization of recreational use of marijuana will also be introduced.  Like Colorado and Washington, which have legalized such use, the measure would provide for taxation of marijuana sales.  It has been estimated that Maryland could realize as much as $150 million annually from taxing marijuana.  Advocates point out that in addition to generating millions of dollars, legalization of marijuana will allow law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes, providing additional savings in the reduction of the cost of arrests, imprisonment, etc.  While we watch closely for the effects of legalization in Colorado and Washington, I am very interested in your thoughts.  Do you think Maryland should legalize the recreational use of marijuana?

I also wanted to let you know that the Verizon Government Directory for the Maryland State Legislature is now available as a free mobile app for smart phones and tablets.  It can be used to access important contact information for members of the State Legislature and even allows you to add your Representatives directly to your contacts.  The app can be found at http://www.verizononthego.com/ or by searching for “Verizon Maryland Government Directory” in the app store on your mobile device.

Your opinion is very important to me, so that I can accurately represent you in Annapolis.  Please do not hesitate to contact me on these or any issue of concern to you.  As always, I encourage and welcome your input.