WASHINGTON - It's about time for Maryland to change its marijuana laws -- at least that's what supporters of the Marijuana Control Act of 2014 say.
The bill goes further than decriminalizing pot. It legalizes possession of up to an ounce for adults 21 and over. But Sen. Jamie Raskin, a supporter of the bill, says the focus should be on the intention behind the bill.
"What I'm drawn to about regulating and taxing it is we're gonna put the drug dealers out of business," he says.
At the same time, Raskin says bill supporters aren't indicating they approve of marijuana use. The idea is to do away with a law that he says doesn't work and over-burdens law enforcement. At a news conference on Thursday, Raskin was joined by former law enforcement officials who support the bill.
Not everyone agrees that legalization is the right move. Last week, Gov. Martin O'Malley told reporters he was "not much in favor" of the bill, and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who hopes to succeed O'Malley, says he's not yet decided on the issue.
"I don't believe the use of marijuana, or the possession of small quantities, is what poses the greatest risk to our communities," Brown says. He feels legalization could help law enforcement keep the focus on more dangerous drugs and violent crimes.
While Raskin says favoring legalization shouldn't be seen as an endorsement of pot use, the state could benefit from regulating a drug he feels is on par with another legal substance: alcohol.
"I'm not saying it's a perfect situation. ... I don't want my kid using [alcohol] any more than I want my kid using marijuana," he says. But, regulation could actually help keep pot out of the hands of kids, he adds.
As Raskin and Del. Heather Mizeur have both said, drug dealers don't card potential buyers. Under the control act, drug dispensaries or licensed sellers would have to.
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