For cannabis advocates in the state of Maryland, Christmas came a day early this year thanks to a new proposal that could soon make recreational marijuana legal. On Friday, a leading state legislator and cannabis advocate filed House Bill 1, which if passed would put recreational marijuana on the November 2022 ballot.
The bill, from Democrat Rep. Luke Clippinger, will be introduced at the start of Maryland’s legislative session on January 12. And according to Marijuana Moment, House leadership has been working for months to make sure the bill gets passed and signed by Gov. Larry Hogan.
If and when House Bill 1 moves through the legislature, voters will then have the final say on November’s ballot. They’ll have to answer “yes” or “no” to the question “Do you favor the legalization of adult–use cannabis in the State of Maryland?” If more than half of ballots cast answer affirmatively, the legislature would be tasked with writing the framework for retail cannabis during the 2023 session.
The proposed long and convoluted process isn’t without healthy skepticism from the pro-cannabis crowd and prohibitionists alike. Among its biggest criticisms, the eight-month gap between the November ballot question and the July 1, 2023 start date for the program would represent a longer time gap than most other states have taken to legalize the plant.
HB1 doesn’t explicitly provide for home cultivation, either, which many activists feel is necessary for a robust legal cannabis program that serves patients as well as customers in rural areas who may not have nearby or convenient access to a licensed dispensary.
An activist told Marijuana Moment the bill, as written, fails to adequately address social justice and social equity in the proposed recreational marijuana industry. A spokesman from Clippinger’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment over the weekend.
HB1 is the latest in a long line of cannabis bills the Democrat-controlled legislature has proposed in recent years. But since 2017, nearly every bill with the power to implement any major policy effects—like expunging criminal records for previous low-level cannabis crimes and expanding the legal quantity that patients may possess—has stalled and failed to pass.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Maryland since 2012, but an October survey from Baltimore-based Goucher College of 700 people concluded that 67 percent of Marylanders now support adult-use.