Law enforcement officials from so-called "red" counties in Maryland rallied at the State Capitol in Maryland today (Feb. 25) for what some local wags are calling "Operation Buzz Kill."
According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, representatives of several of the state's law enforcement agencies gathered to speak out against bills that would decriminalize or legalize marijuana in Maryland. But they were clear that their opposition did not extend to making medical marijuana more readily available to those who need it
"Those lines should not be blurred," said Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis, speaking on behalf of the state's association of police chiefs.
(Anne Arundel County was one of several counties in the state to go for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.)
Since "chronic for chronic conditions" is not a problem, the law enforcement officials opined that loosening pot laws would not curtail street violence.
Surrounded by about two dozens other police chiefs and sheriffs gathered in the State House, Wicomico Sheriff Michael Lewis added that "regardless of whether we legalize it, there will always be a black market for marijuana ... we will fight this until the end."
(Wicomico County on the DelMarVa peninsula went heavily for Romney in 2012.)
According to the Sun, law enforcement officials said that civil rights concerns about unequal enforcement of marijuana posession laws was a serious concern that needs scrutiny, but "marijuana legalization is not the answer," said Lewis, who spoke on behalf of the state's sheriffs association.
The Sun did not report whether Sheriff Lewis said what the answer was.
Sounding like a left-over from 1968, Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly, speaking on behalf of the Maryland State's Attorneys association, called the move to legalize pot "a rush to judgment," on whether legalizing pot was a good idea. Cassilly said the state should wait for the legalization experiment in Colorado and Washington to be thoroughly studied, instead of relying on "a bunch of anecdotal evidence from a bunch of pot heads."
(Darn few potheads in Harford County, one supposes, which gave Romney a huge margin in 2012.)
Two bills on the subject got their first hearing today in the State Senate. One bill, introduced by Baltimore County Sen. Bobby Zirkin, to reduce the penalties for possession of marijuana from a criminal to a civil offense. Zirkin's bill would decriminalize the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, a little over one third of an ounce. The proposed decriminalization bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Howard), would impose a $100 fine and eliminate the possibility of jail time or a court appearance.
(Sure, Sen. Kittleman is a Republican and all, but Howard County gave president Obama a 20 point edge. Baltimore County also went big for Obama in 2012.)
The other bill, introduced by Senator Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery) and nine co-sponsors, would remove all criminal and civil penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and allow the personal cultivation of up to 6 marijuana plants by those over the age of 21. The bill would also create a system of retail marijuana stores, cultivation facilities, and marijuana product manufacturers.
(Romney got smoked in Montgomery County where President Obama got over 70 percent of the vote.)
According to a story in The Daily Chronic (yes, it's an online news site), polling data, commissioned by the ACLU in 2013, found that 53 percent of Maryland voters support making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol. Only 38 percent said they were opposed to this change.
“Marijuana arrests and prosecutions are costing us more than $100 million a year, and they are ruining the futures of thousands of our own citizens for doing something that our last four or five presidents readily admitted to doing themselves,” Raskin says. “Alcohol prohibition didn’t work, and marijuana prohibition is not working, and it’s time to have a serious discussion about it.”
Lawmakers in Maryland failed to act on a similar proposal last year. The Maryland House is also considering a similar bill, which is scheduled for a hearing in March.
Think of all the Oreos one could buy for $100 million. Not to mention the funding for infrastructure, schools, jobs, and other such trifles.