Maryland Senate Overrides Governor’s Anti-Marijuana Veto

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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The Maryland Senate dashed Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s efforts to prevent the decriminalization of marijuana Thursday.

The Democrat-controlled assembly mustered the three-fifths majority needed to override the Republican governor’s veto in a vote on the bill that would decriminalize the use of marijuana in public, as well as possession of cannabis paraphernalia like pipes and papers.

The bill’s advocates said it fixed an anomaly in the law, where marijuana use was decriminalized, but paraphernalia remained illegal. Sen. Robert A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat and sponsor of the bill, said the bill “is really a correction to what we did a couple years ago.”

Maryland originally decriminalized marijuana in 2014. Carrying 10 grams of marijuana or less is a civil offense punishable by a fine.

After the veto override on Thursday, the governor’s office issued a statement:

With these votes taken, we are at least hopeful that members of the General Assembly can now partner with the governor to move Maryland forward, instead of dwelling on last year’s issues.

The state’s legislators have a mixed record when it comes to marijuana reform. Maryland’s former governor and current Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley was a fierce opponent of moving the law in a more libertarian direction.

Even as recently as last year, O’Malley said of marijuana legalization “I’m not much in favor of it,” adding, “because of seeing what drug addiction has done to the people of our state and the people of our city and I also know that this drug and its use and its abuse can be a gateway to even more harmful behavior.”

In 2012, O’Malley said he would veto legislation that would legalize medical marijuana. But he shifted his position in 2014 and signed legislation that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes.

O’Malley attended a “marijuana legalization listening session” in September to hear the views of those with deep connections to the cannabis industry and legalization movement in Colorado. He has not come out in favor of legalization, and said it would be several years before the necessary data could be gathered to measure the success of Colorado’s reforms.

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