Voters lean towards recreational marijuana legalization in WYPR/Banner poll

Maryland voters favored legalization of adult use of recreational marijuana and expungement of criminal records for the use and possession of marijuana, according to a Goucher College Poll in partnership with WYPR and The Baltimore Banner. About 59% of adults surveyed in early September said they would vote in favor of legalization for marijuana consumers 21 years old and older. About 34% said they were against it and only 7% said they were undecided or didn’t know how they would vote.

If the referendum is approved, it would allow people at least 21 years old and older to possess 1.5 ounces of marijuana and grow two plants.

Marijuana dispensaries in Maryland have been for medical card patients only since 2014 when the General Assembly legalized medical use of marijuana. In 2014, Maryland decriminalized the possession of marijuana and anyone caught with 10 grams or less faces a fine of $100 for the first offense.

About 62% of poll respondents said that people with criminal records related to the use and possession of marijuana should be able to get their records wiped clean if recreational marijuana becomes legal. While 29% opposed that measure, 8% were undecided and 1% refused to answer the question.

The voter referendum would allow the general public to purchase marijuana after July 1, 2023.

Proponents of the measure say it could be a boon to the state economy.

“Just like alcohol and tobacco, I don’t really see any issue with an adult making a choice to do that,” said Ian Mayo, a Howard County Democrat. “It would bring more tax revenue in and there’s a lot less illegal drug activity if it’s being sold legally. I think that would be an overall improvement.”

Maryland dispensaries statewide generated between $42 million and $48 million in medical marijuana sales each month in 2021, state records show.

Nineteen states already allow for the sale of recreational marijuana. A recent survey found that a dozen of those states brought in $3 billion in combined tax revenue in 2021, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy organization focused on changing cannabis laws. The other seven states were not taken into account because they were not prepared to sell recreational marijuana at the time of the study.

In June, one economics researcher warned that marijuana legalization isn’t just a cash cow for state coffers.

John Hudak, senior fellow at Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank, told lawmakers in the joint house and senate Maryland Legalization Working Group that the market could be unbalanced if taxes are too high. That could push consumers back to the streets or even encourage trafficking across state lines, which is illegal.

He also mentioned that Maryland needs to take into account how to distribute sales licenses equitably if the referendum is passed.

Not everyone wants recreational marijuana in Maryland to become the law of the land.

Howard County independent Jim Marshall, said he plans to vote against the referendum.

“It’s a money grab for the government, it’s another source of revenue through taxes,” Marshall told WYPR.

The 52-year-old said he’s most concerned about how potent recreational marijuana has become.

“I think that’s dangerous,” he said. “I also have some significant concerns about somebody’s ability to operate a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.”

Kristen Mosbrucker and Rachel Baye contributed reporting.

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