Maryland senators began formal consideration of two bills to legalize marijuana on Thursday, including one that would put the reform on November’s ballot as a referendum.
The Senate Finance Committee hearing comes less than a week after the state’s House of Delegates passed its own legalization package that would refer the question to state voters. The House proposals have also been referred to the Senate panel, though they weren’t on the committee’s agenda for Thursday’s hearing along with the chamber’s own legalization bills and a handful of separate medical cannabis reforms.
Supporters from both chambers are optimistic Maryland’s legislature will move forward on some sort of legalization plan this session, though it remains to be seen what form the final proposal will take. So far at least five separate adult-use cannabis bills have been introduced, leaving lawmakers to choose between competing provisions to merge into passable legislation.
“We have several goals we’re trying to achieve here,” said the panel’s vice chair, Sen. Brian J. Feldman (D), the sponsor of one of the two Senate legalization bills. “We want to divert cannabis sales out of the illicit, unregulated market, that we have right now. We want to regulate this product and we