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Maryland state legislature tries three-way with Mary Jane

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There are three different methods of marijuana regulation reform working their way through the Maryland state legislature. One is basic decriminalization, another is for medical marijuana, and the last is full legalization. All three of the bills have a laundry list of sponsors.

Let's start with the basic decriminalization bill, HB 0879 the Maryland Marijuana Decriminalization Act. This action was the first step for many states a long time ago, but has since found to not be all that helpful in the long run. Decriminalization, in effect, condones the black market. It's no longer a crime to possess small amounts. But where did those small amounts come from? Ultimately, this step is a waste of time to debate when much of the country has already moved past it.

The next house bill has a companion bill in the senate. Medical Marijuana bills HB 0801 and SB 0923 aim to alter the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission which allowed for extremely limited medical marijuana prescribed by medical research facilities. This bill's passage would make Maryland an official medical marijuana state, but it would be one of the more strictly regulated ones. It will still only be medical research facilities that will be allowed to possess and prescribed the plant, and the doctors working with it have to be specially licensed, as well.

While this is better than nothing, it's still quite a hassle to get the medication you need. If you need medical marijuana it would probably be easier to move to a state that treats it like a drug and treats doctors like doctors, allowing them to prescribe drugs. This law creates a superclass of medication that only certain doctors are capable of prescribing correctly. That gives too much government control over the private health care of its citizens.

The best option has been proposed by Delegate Anderson in the house, with Senator Raskin introducing its companion bill. HB 0880 The Marijuana Control Act of 2014 and SB 0658 The Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act skip all of the foreplay and go straight to liquor-like regulation. This option became all the more appealing when tax totals for the first month of legalization in Colorado became public. There are 32 co-sponsors for this bill in the house and 10 in the senate.

Maryland’s Governor Martin O'Malley is against full legalization, believing marijuana to be "a gateway to even more harmful behavior." The nation's views are changing more rapidly than Gov. O'Malley's, though. As Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said, "It's eventually going to happen."

"It's eventually going to happen."

There is a lot of support for fully legal marijuana. The Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland has been formed to support to the Marijuana Control Act of 2014. This coalition is made up of several organizations including the ACLU of Maryland, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches.

There's also this weird, tag-along bill that doesn't seem to make much sense. HB 0889 Marijuana Laws - Full Disclosure of Legal, Employment, and Health Risks has a strange purpose, "Requiring the Office of the Attorney General, at least 90 days before the implementation of any law that reduces penalties for or legalizes the use of marijuana, to establish a specified system to notify the public of the risks related to the change in the law."

This bill was obviously written by someone who thinks marijuana is dangerous and this change in public perception is just because the government isn't warning us enough about the dangers. Most of the "dangers" it claims the public needs to know, however, involve how marijuana is treated rather than how marijuana treats people.

Warnings like you may be subject to federal arrest as if that's a side effect of the plant itself. Or you may be subject to termination at your place of employment, because it's so important to continue allowing employers to invade your privacy and dictate your lifestyle. This bill even states that it will be illegal for banks or businesses to do business with someone who is receiving funds from marijuana related activities even though Attorney General Eric Holder already cleared the way for marijuana banking.

But hey, there is one health related warning this bill requires:

"There are health risks associated with smoking marijuana."

That's it. No details on what, if any, those health risks are. This is why nobody takes prohibitionists seriously anymore. We don't just accept authoritarian instruction. If you tell us something is bad you need to prove it. We've been lied to too much to trust you anymore.

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