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Seeing Through The Haze

Lawmakers divided on Mizeur’s plan to legalize marijuana use

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Published on: Wednesday, November 27, 2013

By Donna Broadway and Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE- The marijuana legalization debate is once again ripe for picking and aided by a recent proposal looks to be an issue in the statehouse come January.

Delegate and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur (D-20) recently proposed a plan to legalize and decriminalize marijuana. Under Mizeur’s plan, an estimated $160 million would be raised by the state in taxing legal marijuana and the  money would be used to fund universal pre-k among other programs.

Mizeur said she will introduce the measure if she is elected governor. But Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-11), has already said he will introduce a decriminalization bill in the 2014 General Assembly session. The last time decriminalization was on the table was in the 2011 General Assembly with House Bill 606. The bill passed the senate but was killed in the house. With the likelihood of marijuana back on the table, several county and state legislators weighed in on the issue.

In the General Assembly, Senator Brian Frosh (D-16) supports the issue and said he would vote for the measure if it came up.

In contrast Delegate Charles Barkley (D-39) said he is against the measure and would not vote for it.  

“I think we stay right where we are right now. We did pass a bill to allow for medicinal purposes, so patients who really need it can go get some help,” said Delegate Barkley. “I think marijuana has really changed over the years. When I was younger, I don’t think it was as potent as nowadays. I think marijuana is a lot more potent than it used to be and to allow access to it by everybody, we’re telling our kids its okay to smoke dope.”

Delegate Barkley, who is a retired Montgomery County Public school teacher, said he thinks marijuana is a gateway drug and he would be against the measure.

“I am a retired school teacher. I taught school for 30 years. A lot of folks that are really hooked on cocaine and heroine, they didn’t just start on cocaine and heroin, most of them started with marijuana. Once you start with marijuana, you want something stronger,” said Delegate Barkley.

First term Delegate Shane Robinson (D-39) supports the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana with the use of taxes to support education programs.

“I think it would be successful in terms that we would no longer incarcerate so many people for something that is ultimately not that big of a deal in the larger scheme of things. Alcohol is legal and its regulated and I don’t think that marijuana is anymore dangerous than alcohol, so the fact we put people in prison for that and then often create criminals in the long run because of the time that is spent in prison. I think that it’s very bad for Maryland, so I think it would be a positive step to decriminalize it,” said Delegate Robinson.

Delegate Tom Hucker (D-20) said he would support the measure if it came to the House of Delegates.

County council president Nancy Navarro (D-4) declined to comment on the issue with  chief of staff, Adam Fogel, stating “Councilmember Navarro is not taking a position on Delegate Mizeur’s proposal. This is a state issue where the council does not have jurisdiction.” Councilmember George Levanthal (at-large) also declined to comment stating he would need to see the proposal before taking a position on the decriminalization of marijuana.

In Takoma Park, Councilmember Seth Grime (D-1) is a vocal proponent of legalizing marijuana, even writing several blog posts about it.

“ I hope our District 20 representatives and the Montgomery County delegation will support his decriminalization bill and a bill in the House of Delegates,” said Councilmember Grimes.

In Gaithersburg, Councilmember Ryan Spiegel, said he is in favor of the decriminalization of the possession of very small amounts for personal use.

“Other states are already ahead of us on this and we can certainly try to learn from their successes and their mistakes along the way. The big legal issue that remains out there even if Maryland and other states decriminalize it, it’s still illegal in federal law and this presents real challenges in terms of how we try to implement the policy, how are law enforcement officials are supposed to enforce the laws and try to figure out what laws to enforce and when,” said Councilmember Spiegel. “So there are still a lot of issues that remain. I would like to see some consistency between federal and state policy on that issue, personally, the reason why I figure decriminalization of the possession of very small amounts is because I’m particularly concerned with the widely disproportionate incarceration of minorities for what are relatively minor offenses.”

Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz took a different stance on the marijuana debate.

“I certainly would not have thought of this as something to do. I believe before anything like this should even be considered we need to hear from the medical professionals, the states attorney and the law enforcement community and the community at large to hear what they would think of something like this. “ said Mayor Katz. “We have learned that smoking in general is not a healthy situation so I don’t know why we would want people to be doing something that would hurt them even more. And I have problems with the state of Maryland receiving revenue from marijuana.”

Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton said though it isn’t a Rockville issue, she is following the debate closely.  

“It is kind of early to take a stand. I would want to talk to Police Chief Terry Treschuk first to see what affect legalization would have on the city’s police force,” said Mayor Newton.  The 2014 Maryland General Assembly session begins on January 8, 2014 at 8p.m. 

Reader Comments - 2 Total

captcha 225372d5319e48aaa01e7d14be12308b

Posted By: Brian Judy, Montgomery Village, MD On: 12/4/2013

Title: Charles Barkely is wrong on this one

Although I often agree with Delegate Barkley on issues he is way behind current knowledge about marijuana potency and as a gateway drug.
A couple studies, amongst others, help to clarify these often used excuses for the drug war on marijuana.
An Austrailian research team found no evidence of large general increase in potency.
Further a Rand study done over 10 years ago could not find a linkage between marijuana use and hard drug use.
We need our county leaders to get better informed on this issue so we can work to stop overloading our courts and jails with non-violent marijuana users.

Posted By: Stoner4prez On: 12/1/2013

Title: Politicians really are clueless

When I was younger, I don’t think it was as potent as nowadays. I think marijuana is a lot more potent than it used to be and to allow access to it by everybody, we’re telling our kids its okay to smoke dope.”
this has got to be the absolute dumbest thing the prohibitionists use.......
These idiots still think marijuana and alcohol act the same.......i.e the more you use and the potency used are equally dangerous......
Marijuana doesnt affect people anywhere near the same way alcohol does......
These comments about the potency of marijuana now compared to then......are ridiculous on its face.......
Here are the facts......the higher the potency of cannabis the less that is consumed......if you smoke to much the worst that happens is you; smoke yourself straight or fall asleep........and if a rookie consumes and has a panic attack anything high in sugar will wipe out the cannabis high.....also ibuprofen does the same thing......
When it comes to cannabis the last people on earth you want to listen to about negative side effects are politicians doctors nurses teachers rehabilitation specialists police etc they are all liars do not trust them or believe them.....


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