Maryland NORML 2019 Policy Priorities
1. Legal adult use and access from licensed businesses
Maryland is proud to call itself the “Free State.” It is intrinsic to freedom that each of us has free domain over our body, our ideas, our imagination and our emotions. We are free to live where we want, work at the occupation that suits us, and to enjoy recreation. The only constraint is that we cannot injure others or fail to carry out our mutual obligations.
There is nothing intrinsic in enjoying the use of marijuana that interferes with an adult carrying out their responsibilities. Certainly the impact on self-control is well below legal, over-the-counter consumer products, such as alcohol.
In many recreational activities, there is a risk of death or serious bodily injury -- excessive tobacco and alcohol consumption, hunting with a firearm, surfing in the ocean, boating in the bay, swimming in lakes and pools, skiing on trails, rafting, kayaking, bicycling, hiking, horseback riding, playing football, lacrosse or soccer, etc. Dozens die in Maryland from these legal , risky activities every year. No one has ever died just from using marijuana. The risks from marijuana use are insignificant when compared to dozens of legal and culturally admired activities.
It should never be unlawful simply to take risks. Risk is the American way. Americans don’t simply tolerate risk, we embrace it. It is no longer tolerable to prohibit adults from using cannabis. Adults should be able to lawfully possess cannabis, use it, and procure it from licensed businesses. We think that businesses engaged in commercial-scale production and distribution of cannabis or cannabis products should have their products tested for purity, and the products should be labeled appropriately.
2. Home cultivation
It is a basic liberty that one can plant a garden and reap the harvest for one’s benefit and pleasure. Cultivating cannabis at home for personal, non-commercial purposes poses no danger that could justify infringing on the liberty to grow your own garden. When we legalize marijuana for adult use, the law must also allow an adult to cultivate marijuana for their own use. It is inconceivable that when adult marijuana use is legal that there would be any penalty under law for growing marijuana at your home for your own use.
3. Social use
If adults may use marijuana, then they must be able to do so in the company of others. Places where adults can use cannabis together need to be clearly identified and should be permitted at places such as yoga studios, coffee houses, bookstores, concert and entertainment venues, private parties and public gatherings, campgrounds, and private clubs. People should be able to use cannabis whenever and wherever adults gather to socialize, whether for athletics, for music making, for intellectual pursuits, for worship or simply to relax. Such social use can strengthen a culture of safe and respectful norms of cannabis use. Our laws should foster responsible use by adults, and to protect personal liberty and freedom of association. Security requirements for such venues need not be more elaborate than those needed to control an inventory of wines, spirits and beer. The number or character of such venues should not be tied to the number or character of alcohol establishments in the community.
4. The age of adulthood is 18
People who are 18 years old are adults under Maryland law. Adults at age 18 can vote, serve in the military, serve on juries, purchase tobacco products, get married, have families, make healthcare decisions for themselves and their children, operate motor vehicles, and enjoy every other privilege and responsibility of adulthood. It is absurd to limit their liberty to use cannabis and cannabis products. A very large number of 18-21 year old adults experiment with cannabis use every year. Exposing these adults to arrest or criminal or civil penalties harms them pointlessly and is not in the public interest. The minimum legal age for using, possessing and purchasing cannabis should be set at age 18.
5. Ensure diversity in cannabis industries and enforcement
Cannabis prohibition in the United States in the 20th century relied upon falsehoods about and prejudice toward racial and ethnic minorities to expand enforcement programs. Cannabis prohibition has always been disproportionately targeted against people of color. In Maryland, the ACLU in 2013 demonstrated an outrageous disproportionality in arrests in every county. Every county and the City of Baltimore should adopt clear policies against unwarranted racial disproportionality in law enforcement. Maryland NORML supports laws and regulations to ensure that throughout Maryland’s cannabis industries, racial, ethnic and gender diversity is achieved in employment and other opportunities.
MD NORML supports: *Ending the ban on employment in the cannabis industry of those with criminal records (e.g. a felony drug conviction). *Expungement and shielding of marijuana convictions. *Removing barriers to entry to all cannabis-related businesses and encouraging the small business sector. *Creating cannabis enterprise zones to incentivize locating cannabis businesses where people need jobs.
*Adoption of clear policies by all police departments: --Against racial profiling. --Training to prevent racial profiling. --Monitoring stops and arrests to identify patterns of racial disproportionality. --Discipline of officers whose records demonstrate racial disproportionality in stops and arrests. *Attorney General of Maryland to monitor the cannabis industry to identify, and if necessary enjoin or prosecute racial, ethnic and gender discrimination in the industry.
6. Market access for small businesses
The law should encourage small business participation in the cannabis market, such as craft cultivators, family farms, neighborhood gardens, cottage industry production and processing, and farmers markets. Adults have economic liberty to provide for themselves and their families. Consolidating cannabis cultivation and processing in a few, industrial-scale licensed businesses does not serve the public interest.
7. Stop testing parolees and probationers for marijuana use; end parole and probation violations for marijuana use
Marijuana use is not wrongful or deviant behavior. Refraining from marijuana consumption should no longer be a condition of supervised release, and use of marijuana should not be a violation of such conditions. Unfortunately, marijuana use has been a major factor in sending people on probation or parole to prison in Maryland. This is unjust, very expensive to taxpayers, and accomplishes no public safety purpose. (Such a legal change was proposed in New York State on October 16, 2018 by five former commissioners of probation.)
8. Expungement of criminal records
The economic devastation of the collateral consequences of criminal convictions and arrests are very well known. Persons arrested for a marijuana offense should be able to get those criminal records expunged, whether convicted or not, after a few years with no new offense. This process needs to be very simple and inexpensive, if not automatic.
9. End prohibition on former drug offenders participating in the cannabis industry
Maryland’s medical cannabis law now bars persons with drug felony convictions from employment for 7 years after the completion of the sentence. Persons convicted of being a “volume dealer” or a “kingpin” are barred for life. There is no good reason to continue to punish people after they have completed their sentence by denying them employment in general or in any specific industry, especially a new or growing industry. Post sentence punishment serves no public safety purpose, it is simply spiteful.
10. Immediate release of prisoners serving sentences for marijuana offenses
Once marijuana is legal, every person in Maryland who is incarcerated, or serving a sentence of probation or parole for cultivation, distribution or possession of marijuana should be immediately released from custody, or discharged from supervision.
11. Civil Protection of marijuana consumers
For almost a century, marijuana users have been discriminated against. Propaganda about the dangerousness and deviance of marijuana users has been advanced for almost a century to handicap minority populations and benefit other social and economic interests groups. Most marijuana users have been indistinguishable from their communities. But numerous others have embraced subcultures in which cannabis is used religiously, ritually, culturally, intellectually or musically. Anti-marijuana prejudice and hatred has been cultivated by religious groups, economic interests and government agencies. As a consequence, for almost a century marijuana users have been lawfully harassed, imprisoned, shot (usually accidentally), mocked, denigrated and discriminated against. This is wrong and should no longer be allowed.
Employers have a right to prohibit using marijuana at work or working while impaired by marijuana. However, it should be illegal to discriminate against a person in housing, education, parental rights and responsibilities, firearm ownership, serving on a jury or in other ways because they use marijuana.
12. Refund of forfeitures to those whose property was taken, and of fines to those who paid them
Once marijuana is legal, persons whose property was seized and forfeited because of marijuana possession should get a refund for the value of the seized property, plus interest. Persons who paid fines and court costs in connection with a marijuana case should get a refund of the fines and court costs that they paid, with interest. This is only partial reparation for the injuries inflicted by decades of marijuana enforcement. Those who could not get employed, who paid attorneys fees, and who spent time in custody will never be compensated for their losses. However, in cases in which the government was enriched with the property of marijuana offenders reimbursement can be determined, and a measure of justice can be achieved.