Petition for Marijuana Legalization in Maryland

Petition for Marijuana Legalization in Maryland

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Progressive Maryland started this petition to Maryland General Assembly and

We the people are asking our legislators to fully legalize and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older, as well as ensure that the communities who have been most harmed by previous marijuana laws are the ones who will benefit the most economically from legalization. Too many Maryland residents are losing their rights to life and freedom for possessing a plant that is making billions of dollars a year in states that have already legalized cannabis. The prohibition of marijuana also has roots in institutionalized racism, tied to the war on drugs, and needs to be ended now. Low-income and communities of color have historically been unjustly targeted for marijauna arrests, and too many continue to suffer from incarceration from this non-violent crime. Black people specifically are 4x more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people although both races consume marijuana at the same rates, according to the ACLU. It is crucial that these communities benefit from business ownership and tax revenues from marijuana legalization instead of just large corporate dispensaries and the government. 

 

The details of our demands to provide equity in legalization and justice in decriminalization are as follows:

1. Past records of marijuana possession and distribution need to be automatically expunged.

a. Passing of marijuana legalization should include the automatic expungement of past, low-level marijuana crimes. There are many people who need to consume marijuana medically but don't have a medical card due to cost or lack of access to healthcare. This crime on someone's record leads to lost opportunities and continued penalization of predominantly Black and Brown residents who are targeted for drug arrests. We need to end the continued criminalization and poverty of communities of color from the racist war on drugs, along with the overall stigma of marijuana use.

2. Marijuana must be removed from employment drug screenings.

a. No one should be in danger of losing their jobs over legal, adult-use marijuana use as long as it does not interfere with their work. Someone should be able to consume marijuana on a day off just like they may consume alcohol without it risking their career. If someone ingests a certain amount of THC within a month or more of a drug screening, that can be immediate grounds for termination in some offices of employment and should not be allowed.

3. Economic gains from marijuana legalization need to go to those most impacted. 

a. Job opportunities in the highly lucrative marijuana industry need to go to those who have been previously incarcerated for marijuana possession and/or distribution. These formerly incarcerated residents should be the first people to be chosen for employment at marijuana dispensaries that are guaranteed to become more abundant across the state if they are not the business owners. There should also be small business loans for these people previously impacted so that it's equitable and accessible for BIPOC-owned marijuana businesses to thrive too. Furthermore, there should be a clear workforce development plan for people coming from the underground economy into the legalized economy to support the entrepreneurs as they seek to gain a foothold in this emerging industry.

b. Tax revenues should go back into the communities most harmed by the war on drugs. This includes funding for job training programs, public schools, and other community investment programs. Revenue should also be put toward drug policy programs such as harm reduction initiatives like Overdose Prevention Sites. 

c. Large-scale marijuana companies from outside the state should not be coming in and benefiting disproportionately from legalization in Maryland over the Marylanders who have been involved in this underground industry already or want to participate in the legalized marijuana economy.
Work in the industry should provide good paying union jobs and opportunities to build community wealth.

4. The state should help ensure that there are employment opportunities for people to be represented by a union to collectively bargain. Furthermore, the state should provide incentives and resources for people to work in the industry and organize in union. It is also important that legalization creates economic opportunities that more equitably distribute wealth by allowing for innovative forms of ownership in marijuana enterprises such as community operations and employee stock ownership companies.

 

Over half of Marylanders support legalizing adult-use marijuana according to a Goucher Poll. With economic losses from the pandemic, Maryland will benefit from legalizing sooner rather than later for increasing sales and decreasing the costs of incarcerating people for minor drug offenses. We need to also include language in our marijuana policy reform that will bring justice to the communities most harmed by the non-violent crime of possession and distribution. There should be no excuses in including these demands in new marijuana policies. We the people hope that the MGA will pass this statewide marijuana reform during the 2021 Legislative Session.

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