2017 looks set to be a big year for the cannabis industry in both Canada and the US. Canada is moving toward the legalization and regulation of cannabis, and the same is happening in more and more American states.
Maryland is one state that seems to be moving quickly toward legalization. In a news conference on January 30, lawmakers proposed an amendment to the state’s constitution that, if approved, will let voters decide in 2018 whether or not marijuana should be legalized. If it passes, Maryland could become the first state in the region with a “full-fledged” legal marijuana market.
According to The Baltimore Sun, it’s likely that Maryland residents will legalize marijuana if given the choice. David Moon, a Montgomery County Democrat who is leading the charge on the proposed amendment, told the publication, “it’s a matter of when.” He added, “[i]t’s become very clear that this is no longer a fringe issue. It’s totally mainstream.”
The proposal for the amendment is still being drafted, and because it’s a constitutional amendment it will require more support than regular legislation — three-fifths of the state’s Democrat-dominated legislature will need to vote in its favor.
Moon’s proposed amendment is separate from two bills put forward recently that would regulate and tax marijuana in the state. Law Street Media notes that the recommendations made in those bills include granting usage rights to adults over the age of 21 and making it illegal to consume marijuana in public. The bills also call for an excise tax of $30 per ounce and a 9-percent sales tax on retail products.
Other bills aimed at legalizing marijuana in Maryland have failed over the last several years, and Moon’s goal in proposing the amendment is to take the decision out of the government’s hands and allow those in the state to vote directly on the issue.
At least some Maryland lawmakers seem open to the idea of voting the amendment through and allowing voters to dictate whether marijuana is legalized or not. For example, Thomas V. Mike Miller, a southern Maryland Democrat and Senate president, told the Sun that he doesn’t have any objections regarding a constitutional amendment on marijuana legalization.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Whip Stephen S. Hershey told the news outlet, “I’m all for the expansion of citizens initiatives, but I really think we should we start with the ability to petition any new budget matters — such as newly imposed taxes.”
Maryland isn’t the only state moving closer to legalizing marijuana. On Monday (February 6), a proposal to legalize adult use of marijuana in New Mexico got the go ahead from the first of three committees it needs to get through before it reaches a floor vote.
The Daily Chronic notes that the bill was first approved by the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee in January, and is now waiting for a review from the House Business and Industry Committee.
If passed, it will allow adults over 21 to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana in public and 2 ounces at home. The bill will also allow adults to grow up to six marijuana plants at home, with a maximum of 12 plants per household. Under the bill, retail sales will begin in 2019, and will be subject to a 15-percent sales tax; local communities will be allowed to impose an extra 5-percent sales tax.
Investors — and consumers — will no doubt be watching to see what progress is made in both of those states.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Jocelyn Aspa, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.