Slim Chances for Maryland Marijuana Legalization Bill

Lawmakers in Maryland will propose a bill today that would legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, using Colorado’s Amendment 64 as a model.

But the odds are stacked against the measure. Last year, the General Assembly failed to pass a decriminalization law. Gov. Martin O’Mally is staunchly opposed to legalizing marijuana. And while the state passed a medical marijuana law in 2013, the restrictive nature of the law – medical marijuana can only be distributed by a small number of qualified academic medical centers – means it will not be functional until 2016.

Still, the Maryland bill represents a step toward legalization. Under its language, anyone over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants at home. The bill directs Maryland’s comptroller to draw up regulations for licensing retailers, growers and testing labs for the legal sale of marijuana.

It also calls for a $50 per-ounce excise tax. The first $5 million in tax revenue would go to drug and alcohol treatment programs, as well as education.

Unlike Colorado, Maryland’s bill calls for a minimum of two recreational marijuana retail centers in each county and limits the number of retail shops to one for every 20,000 residents. Local municipalities can vote on whether to ban marijuana retail centers outright.