The new bill would legalize recreational cannabis and erase criminal penalties for those incarcerated.

A new bill in Maryland would legalize recreational marijuana in the state. HB32, also known as the Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, Inclusion, Restoration, and Rehabilitation Act of 2021, would allow the use of recreational cannabis for citizens over the age of 21, and eliminate criminal charges for those who have faced penalties for drug possession. Despite legalizing medical marijuana in 2014, the state has yet to officially decriminalize it.

The Virginia House of Delegates passed a similar bill earlier this month, which banished criminal penalties for cannabis possession and introduced a tax on marijuana-related products. It passed with a slim margin of 55:52.

Democratic delegate Jazz Lewis of Prince George's County is sponsoring the bill, which came to fruition from a workshop with members of the Black caucus. Legalizing the substance has long been championed by advocates for racial justice in establishing a more equitable society for Black Americans, who are disproportionately affected by strict drug laws—according to Lewis. Black citizens comprised a staggering 96 percent of arrests regarding marijuana in the city of Baltimore in a two-year span.

Additionally, the bill would boost the local economy through job creation, aiding small businesses and a dramatic influx in tax revenue for the state (hundreds of millions of dollars are projected). With the bill's aim in addressing the effects of systemic racism, 63 percent of revenue allocated would be put aside for bolstering community organizations dedicated to racial equity, as well as funding to Black universities.

The bill is currently in the early stages of hearings. If passed, it would go into effect on October 1, 2021. You can read the summary here.

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