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Maryland House Bill Aims To Legalize Cannabis, Expunge Convictions

ANNAPOLIS (WJZ) — Maryland lawmakers want to legalize marijuana.

House Bill 32 would not only legalize four ounces of possession for those 21 and over- it would also expunge past cannabis-related convictions.

"We must end the continuously raging war on drugs," said Rajani Gudlavalletti, with Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition.

Tuesday's judiciary hearing debated cannabis legalization and how the state could benefit from the regulated sale of marijuana.

"Rights past wrongs and create a more inclusive economy," said Ben Jealous, with Progressive Maryland.

"Any legalization bill is meaningless if it does not address record expungement," said Del. Jazz Lewis, D- Prince George's County, District 24.

Bill sponsor Del. Jazz Lewis proposed expungement and release for possession and cultivation of legal amounts, and a market promoting social equity in communities hit hardest by its criminalization.

"To ensure business ownership and participation in the legal industry by communities who have disproportionately impacted by prohibition," said Olivia Naugle, with Marijuana Policy Project.

In opposition to the bill, AAA cites concerns strictly on road safety and increases of traffic fatalities in three states involving drivers THC-positive.

"All three of those states, we've seen an increase in crash rates, as well as insurance rates," said Ragina Ali, with AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Del. Lewis said not much would change on enforcement.

"If someone gets pulled over because they think they're an impaired driver, a drug recognition expert would come to the scene," Lewis said.

Other concerns include unintended access to minors. Advocates said current prohibitions has not kept cannabis from kids.

"Drug dealers aren't checking IDs, so this policy here would regulate cannabis," Naugle said.

Many states have already legalized or decriminalized possession. In D.C., growing and personal possession of small amounts is legal, and Virginia's legislature this month passed legalization bills.

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