By Colleen Wilson
ANNAPOLIS (Nov. 19, 2013)—
Candidate for governor Heather Mizeur said Tuesday that marijuana "legalization is the step we need to take to bring our policy into the 21st century."
Delegate Mizeur, D-Takoma Park, outlined her proposed policy that would legalize and regulate marijuana use in the state. The policy aims to lower incarceration numbers and generate millions in tax revenue to fund early childhood education.
"Prohibition didn't work for alcohol and it hasn't been working for marijuana," she said, adding that present marijuana laws in the state have "detracted our law enforcement from focusing on serious and violent crimes, and if we legalize, tax and regulate marijuana we'll raise about $150 million that you could devote to education."
The other Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler, are willing debate the topic.
In an email, Brown's campaign manager Justin Schaller said, "Brown is open to a continued discussion on how decriminalizing negligible amounts of marijuana would impact Marylanders and reduce the disparities in our criminal justice system."
A statement released to Capital News Service by Gansler's spokesman Bob Wheelock suggests that there is no mandate for legalization from Maryland citizens.
"The Attorney General recognizes that public sentiment is slowly shifting toward limited, prescribed medicinal use of marijuana and, in some states, even toward decriminalization of marijuana. There does not appear to be a groundswell toward full scale legalization here in Maryland nor does the Attorney General feel that unrestrained legalization would be appropriate," the statement from Gansler's campaign said.
A Goucher poll released this month found that about 51 percent of Marylanders support legalizing marijuana in the state and roughly 40 percent oppose, with a 3.8 percent margin of error.
Mizeur acknowledged her push for marijuana legalization is bold. Previous attempts to loosen marijuana laws have stalled in the General Assembly. State Sen. Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, has said he will reintroduce a bill that would decriminalize the possession of 10 grams or less of the substance with a lower penalty fee, instead of the current policy that says an individual faces up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.
The Marijuana Policy Project, a lobbying group that supports reforming U.S. marijuana laws, has made Maryland one of its target-states to pass "pro-pot" legislation before 2017.
Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst for the Washington, D.C.-based group, said Mizeur's plan is a "sound regulatory system."
"It's very well thought out and it addresses many aspects of legalizing it," she said. "We would hope that people of the representatives would want to get behind that reform."