Maryland has taken a significant step towards statewide legalization of recreational marijuana, with Governor Wes Moore signing a bill into law on Wednesday to regulate the sales of the drug. This move comes ahead of the state’s voter-approved legalization law, which is due to take effect in July.
The new law is aimed at ensuring that the rollout of recreational marijuana in Maryland is done in an equitable way that benefits all communities. Speaking at a signing ceremony, Governor Moore highlighted the harm that the criminalization of marijuana has caused to low-income communities and communities of color, and said that he wants to make sure that the legalization of marijuana lifts these communities up in a profound way.
The cannabis regulatory legislation was quickly put in place before the state’s voter-approved legalization law takes effect. The House and Senate bills as introduced earlier this session were identical, but they were amended in certain different ways throughout the committee process as they advanced. Last month, key committees took up the opposite chamber’s measure and approved reprints to align the text. After floor debates and votes on either side of the Capitol, the legislation received final passage.
One of the most significant differences that were ironed out concern the tax rate for marijuana products and the regulatory body that will be responsible for overseeing the market, both of which were resolved in favor of Senate-passed provisions, but there were also other more modest compromises that got the legislation into final shape.
Under the new law, cannabis will be taxed at nine percent, with medical marijuana sales exempt from the tax. Thirty-five percent of marijuana tax revenue will go towards a community reinvestment fund, with counties, a Cannabis Public Health Fund, and a Cannabis Business Assistance Fund each receiving another five percent. The five percent in revenue that goes to the counties will then be divided up, with 50 percent going to local municipalities based on marijuana sales at retailers based in those jurisdictions.
Overall, the legalization of marijuana in Maryland is seen as a significant move towards a more equitable society, as it aims to redress some of the harm caused by the criminalization of the drug, particularly among low-income communities and communities of color. It is hoped that the new law will help to create new opportunities for these communities and that the revenue generated from the sale of marijuana will be used to benefit those who have been most negatively affected by the war on drugs.
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