Maryland Del. Jazz Lewis and Broad Coalition of Advocates Call for Cannabis Legalization During Press Conference

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Annapolis, MD — PRESS RELEASE — On Jan. 26, the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition held a virtual press conference in support of Del. Jazz Lewis’ (D) comprehensive legalization bill, H.B. 32 — The Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, Inclusion, Restoration, and Rehabilitation Act of 2021. A recording of the press conference is available here.

H.B. 32 would legalize personal possession and home cultivation of cannabis for adults, automatically expunge past cannabis offenses, establish a social equity program to ensure inclusion in the industry from disproportionately impacted communities, and reinvest a significant portion of tax revenue to endowments to Maryland’s four HBCUs and communities hardest hit by the war on drugs.

« This legislation will mark a turning point in Maryland history and signify a new way Maryland handles social equity and restorative justice. And hopefully, it will help frame racial equity for other states contemplating legalization,” said Lewis..

Fifteen states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana for adults 21 and over. According to a February 2019 Goucher poll, 57% of Marylanders support cannabis legalization.

Coalition members supporting HB 32 include: Progressive Maryland, National Working Families Party, 1199 SEIU, Maryland NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Clergy for a New Drug Policy, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, and Casa de Maryland.

Speakers in attendance included Baltimore Police Det. Debbie Ramsey, Ret., member of Law Enforcement Action Partnership’s Speakers Bureau; Dr. Ralph Salvagno, MD, orthopaedic surgeon, Republican mayor of Hancock, MD, and spokesperson for Doctors for Cannabis Regulation; Ben Jealous, co-director of Progressive Maryland’s campaign for marijuana legalization, former national president of the NAACP, and 2018 Democratic candidate for governor; Steve Hawkins, of Laurel, MD, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project and former executive vice president of the NAACP, executive director of Amnesty International USA, and president of the Coalition for Public Safety; Joel Madden, lead vocalist for the American pop punk band Good Charlotte, co-chair for Progressive Maryland’s marijuana legalization effort, entrepreneur, and philanthropist; Hope Wiseman, CEO of Mary and Main dispensary in N. Capitol Heights, MD; and Alfrieda Hylton, mother of two sons who experienced the trauma of incarceration for cannabis in Maryland.

« Legalizing and regulating cannabis is in the best interest of bolstering public health in our communities, » said Salvagno. « Marylanders should no longer be forced to rely on an illicit market that has the potential to expose consumers to molds, pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Many states, including Massachusetts, Maine and Michigan, have shown that regulating cannabis works. Numerous studies have found that cannabis is objectively less harmful than alcohol. It is time for our state to provide safe and regulated cannabis to the adult-use population. »

“The war on cannabis and its disparate enforcement has led to devastating costs and decades of harm to people and communities of color, » said Hawkins. « Del. Lewis’ bill would work to reverse this damage by removing one of the most common pretexts for arrests and providing meaningful economic opportunities and community reinvestment for those that have been hit hardest by prohibition.”

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