Md. Delegates Try To Revive Bill To Decriminalize 
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Md. Delegates Try To Revive Bill To Decriminalize 
Posted by CN Staff on April 04, 2014 at 11:06:27 PT
By Fredrick Kunkle and John Wagner
Source: Washington Post
Maryland -- Members of the Maryland House of Delegates moved Friday to resurrect a bill on the chamber’s floor that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, just days after the measure was scuttled in committee. Del. Keiffer J. Mitchell, Jr. offered an amendment that would undo an attempt by the House Judiciary Committee to set up a task force to study the issue.Debate on the measure was put off until Saturday at the request of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George’s), a staunch opponent of the bill.
Mitchell (D-Baltimore), whose family has a distinguished civil rights background, characterized the decriminalization measure as urgent, citing data showing that African Americans go to jail at a higher rate for marijuana possession, despite usage levels that are no different from for other racial groups.“We in good conscience cannot allow a task force to take place for two years while there [are] racial disparities,” Mitchell said. “We believe that it is not something that should be continued to be studied as the facts continue to stare us in the face.” The attempt by members of the Legislative Black Caucus and other rebellious delegates to try to resurrect the legislation in the full House is an unusual challenge for the tightly scripted legislature — not only to committee rule, but to Vallario, one of its most powerful practitioners.“There are a number of members in the House who feel very strongly that Maryland should be moving in the direction of decriminalizing marijuana,” said Del. Aisha N. Braveboy, another Prince George’s County Democrat, and chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus. Overcoming a committee’s opposition “is very difficult,” Braveboy said. “But it’s not impossible, and it has happened before.”Negotiations between Vallario and supporters of decriminalization are expected to take place Friday afternoon. Several lawmakers predicted a close vote on Saturday. The maneuvering comes in the final days of a legislative session that has wrestled with whether to legalize or decriminalize marijuana. The General Assembly has also advanced measures to revise its medical marijuana law to allow patients easier access to the drug. Colorado and Washington recently legalized recreational use of marijuana, and the District of Columbia this year decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of the drug.But the issue has split Maryland’s legislature. Last year, the Senate passed a decriminalization bill that died in Vallario’s committee without a vote. This year looked almost like a rerun. On Wednesday, Vallario and members of his committee appeared to put the issue to rest when the panel allowed one decriminalization bill to die without a vote and amended another to create a task force to study the issue further. The panel also disposed of a bill that would have fully legalized marijuana.Braveboy, who is a candidate for attorney general this year, said she and other delegates sought to undo some of the committee’s work and restore the original language in a decriminalization bill that passed the Senate with bipartisan support. That measure – sponsored by Democratic Sens. Robert A. Zirkin (Baltimore County) and Allan H. Kittleman (Howard) – would impose a $100 civil on people caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana. Braveboy said there appears to be enough backing in the House to pass the decriminalization bill if the amendment is successfully added. But reviving the bill could also mean persuading committee members and other delegates to buck an unwritten rule that requires them to respect a committee’s decisions — and, in the case of committee members, not switch votes once the measure is before the entire chamber.“Typically, once your committee has voted on a bill, typically, you’re asked to stick with your committee,” Braveboy said. Members of the caucus believe that the time is now to end a war on drugs whose collateral damage — they say — has been too great. That damage includes criminal convictions for minorities, who are jailed at higher rates for marijuana possession despite usage levels similar to whites, and the struggles of people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana to obtain jobs or college loans after their arrest. All three major Democratic candidates running for governor this year — Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (Montgomery) have voiced support for decriminalization legislation.Opponents say decriminalizing possession of even small amounts of marijuana will send the wrong message to young people and create unintended consequences.The lawmakers involved in the effort include Mizeur, who sponsored a version of the decriminalization bill this year; Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s), who is Gansler’s running mate in this year’s governor’s race; and Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery), who had drawn up an amendment to restore the provisions on decriminalization.“There’s a huge generational divide,” Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery) said. “The more junior members regard this as a matter of public policy and think our current policy is counterproductive and wasteful and unfairly stigmatizing of people.”The outcome of the bill could depend on the posture of House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who has been cautious regarding bills loosening marijuana laws — but also understands the growing support for decriminalization among the Democrats he leads. Several lawmakers are lobbying Busch to give his blessing to the effort, which would free members to disregard the unwritten rules on committee loyalty.Leaders of the decriminalization effort have also been wooing some House Republicans to come on board. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who is weighing a 2016 presidential bid, has given no indication as to whether he would sign or veto a marijuana decriminalization bill if it reaches his desk.O’Malley, who rose to political prominence as a tough-on-crime mayor of Baltimore, said at the outset of the 90-day legislative session that he does not favor legalization, which he considers a gateway to more dangerous drugs.But O’Malley and his aides have been less definitive about more moderate reforms in marijuana laws.For the past couple of weeks, Vallario had unsuccessfully lobbied members of his committee to kill the bill outright by voting it down, according to Anderson and several other members. Once it became clear the votes weren’t there, Vallario — who has presided over the Judiciary Committee for two decades — pursued the task-force strategy instead.Source: Washington Post (DC) Author:  Fredrick Kunkle and John WagnerPublished: April 4, 2014Copyright: 2014 Washington Post CompanyContact: letters Website: URL:  -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #2 posted by Yoshi on April 05, 2014 at 10:00:28 PT:
Chris Christie
El Gordo won't legalize, but is curious about edible forms of cannabis. That's a good one
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on April 05, 2014 at 06:17:02 PT
Chris Christie Won't Legalize Marijuana
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