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Maryland House speaker supports cannabis referendum

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s House speaker announced her support Friday for a referendum to legalize marijuana on next year’s ballot.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, also announced a panel to study how to implement a recreational marijuana program in Maryland, if voters approve.

“While I have personal concerns about encouraging marijuana use, particularly among children and young adults, the disparate criminal justice impact leads me to believe that the voters should have a say in the future of legalization,” Jones said in a statement. “The House will pass legislation early next year to put this question before the voters but we need to start looking at changes needed to State law now.”

Speaker Jones also announced a group of lawmakers that will craft the implementation of a legalized cannabis program in Maryland, if the voters approve the ballot question in November of 2022.

Eighteen states, including neighboring Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use and 37 allow for some sort of medical marijuana, including Maryland.

Del. Luke Clippinger, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, will lead the panel. He said it will establish the legal frameworks needed to fully implement legalized marijuana and learn from mistakes other states have made.

“The Speaker has been clear that we will do this with an eye toward equity and consideration to Black and brown neighborhoods and businesses historically impacted by cannabis use,” the Baltimore Democrat said.

The panel will determine regulatory, licensing and oversight structure of the production, sale and possession of legalized cannabis. That includes the licensing application process, number of licenses and equity in ownership of marijuana facilities.

It also will address expungement of previous convictions for cannabis and address expungement of previous convictions for cannabis and existing criminal laws.

The group will craft a taxation structure and revenue distribution from cannabis proceeds and expand addiction treatment programs.

The panel will begin meeting this fall.

Brian Witte, The Associated Press