June 23, 2014 2:50 PM
With the gubernatorial primaries right around the corner, the race for Maryland's next head official will be kicking off. The following months leading up to the general election on November 4th will be important in the battle to legalize cannabis (marijuana) for all of Maryland's citizens over the age of twenty-one years. Whoever wins the governor's seat will make or break Maryland's chances of legalizing marijuana. Which candidates will help Maryland end its participation in the disastrous war on drugs?
The most vocal supporter of full legalization is Heather Mizeur. Out of all the current candidates in the race, Mizeur has made marijuana legalization a primary issue. Having already worked on and sponsored many marijuana-related bills, including a recent decriminalization bill (not the one that passed last session), Mizeur has already proven herself to be passionate about marijuana law reform. Her work as a delegate has given her firsthand experience in drafting, collaborating, and championing legislative bills that have already made a positive impact on Maryland's marijuana policy.
Heather Mizeur's plan to legalize marijuana for adults is extremely comprehensive and thought-out. Her campaign website includes a detailed, point-by-point plan that highlights both the case for legalization and the effects marijuana legalization will have on Maryland. Mizeur's plan for Maryland is to generate funds through taxing marijuana, and invest them into childhood education.
Also, Mizeur plans to enhance public safety by having law enforcement officers spend their valuable time and money on preventing the real threats to Marylanders such as gun violence, murder, rape, and theft. By setting up a regulated, taxed, and controlled market for adults, Mizeur will also revitalize the economy with a renewed marijuana industry. Mizeur estimates that the state will generate $157.5 million annually from a regulated marijuana market.
On the Democratic side, current polling indicates that Anthony G. Brown will most likely win the primary race on June 24th. As he is the projected hopeful, it is important for voters to understand where Brown stands on marijuana. Brown has been very critical of the current marijuana laws, calling them “costly, ineffective, and racially biased.” Earlier in the year, Brown stated that he is in full support of decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing it for medicinal use. However, he remains opposed to full legalization, saying that he prefers to take a “measured approach” to reforming marijuana laws. Brown suggests that more time needs to be spent observing legalization's impact on Colorado and Washington before Maryland can emulate them.
Doug Gansler, the candidate polling behind Brown, is very hesitant on the issue of legalization. Like Brown, he supports both decriminalization and medicinal efforts, but has not been committed to pushing forth full legalization. Gansler has compared marijuana legalization with the movement for same-sex marriage, stating that it will happen with incremental change. According to Gansler, Maryland isn't ready for “full legalization” of marijuana, and needs more time to consider the best approach to possible legalization.
On the Republican side, polls project Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr. as the primary nomination. A self-described fiscal conservative, Hogan's position on marijuana reform is similar to that of his projected Democratic opponent. According to a questionnaire filed by the Baltimore Sun, Hogan supports decriminalization efforts, but is against full legalization.
Hogan's opponents in the Republican primary echo his opposition to legalization. David R. Craig–second in the Republican primary polls–gave a resolute “no” in his response to legalization. The rhetoric of Craig's opposition, which focused on addiction, suggests that the candidate is misinformed on the nature of marijuana's effects on the body.
Charles Lollar is adamantly against full legalization, but supports prescribed medicinal use. Calling full legalization a “potentially catastrophic social experiment,” Lollar does not seem to have any potential to move on the subject. Lollar's choice of words is particularly interesting, considering that marijuana prohibition has been the real social experiment and has already yielded disastrous results.
Ron George, a delegate from Anne Arundel County, has been a vocal critic of Heather Mizeur’s marijuana legislation. George believes that allowing individuals to grow their own marijuana would destroy any economic market for it–a claim that has already been proven false by the economic boom in Colorado. (Colorado’s Amendment 64 law allows for people to grow up to six plants of their own.) George, predictably, opposes legalization.
In regards to the projected winners of each primary, it is important to remember that a large chunk of voters remain undecided. While Anthony G. Brown and Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr. are the projected leaders of their respective parties, around 30% of voters in each primary polling remain undecided. Remember to get out and vote on June 24th! Maryland NORML will continue to report and follow the gubernatorial candidates well after the primary run. We hope to track, investigate, and engage with all of Maryland's political leaders to reform marijuana prohibition. After all, if the candidates are truly serious about revitalizing the economy, reducing government waste, and creating a safer community for Maryland citizens, shouldn't they start acting a little more NORML?
(This information is intended to inform voters on the declared candidates positions on marijuana law reform and does not constitute the endorsement of any individual candidate by Maryland NORML)