2022 Policy Priorities – Cannabis Legalization in Maryland

Nov 02

There are 3 major policy areas that are central to the conversation about marijuana legalization. Those areas are criminal justice, Black business participation, and community reinvestment.  There are 8 total planks of our position on cannabis legalization advocacy.

Criminal Justice

One of the central aspects of the public discourse regarding marijuana legalization is the criminal justice impact of the policy of prohibition.  Below are aspects of the legislation that relate to addressing the criminal justice aspects of marijuana legalization.

  • Policy #1: Vacature of all marijuana-related convictions. 
    • This entails vacating marijuana-related convictions from people’s records. This is different from expungement. Expungement is about taking a charge off of someone’s record.  Vacatur means that the charge is erased as if it never happened.
  • Policy #2: Allow opportunities for resentencing for convictions pertaining to cannabis related offenses.
    • In cases where possession or distribution of cannabis was a factor that enhanced a sentence, this should be able to be reconsidered.
  • Policy #3: Eliminate legal mechanisms that allow cannabis to be used to criminalize individuals.  This includes raising the legal possession limit, and prohibiting law enforcement from using the odor of cannabis as probable cause to search or arrest someone.
    • Curtailing the phenomena of mass incarceration by ending marijuana prohibition is one important step to repairing the harm that was done to Black and Brown people by the war on drugs. The second step requires that resources are invested directly into the communities that were harmed. There are two elements of marijuana legalization that deal with the distribution of resources. First is creating access to the business opportunities that come with the legalization of this industry. The second is directing tax revenues into the communities most impacted by the war on drugs.

Black Business Participation

The aspect of legalization that is the most complicated is structuring the regulations in such a way that directs the wealth created by the industry into the hands of Black people. There are three main issues that make this such a complicated part of the legislative proposal. First, growers and dispensaries, which are the part of the industry that generates the most wealth, are extremely capital intensive. This puts Black people seeking to get access to that part of the industry at a stark competitive disadvantage given the tremendous wealth disparity between Black folks and white people. Secondly, there are very few government interventions that can be made that give the level of explicit preferential treatment to Black people that do not run into constitutional challenges that have plagued attempts at race specific governmental remedies. Lastly, the level of financial opportunity that exists in this industry will invite wealthy people to find ways to circumvent policies that seek to direct resources to Black businesses.  For example, cannabis companies may support shadow businesses that have a Black face as a way to superficially meet “minority” inclusion requirements without actually having truly significant resources to Black people.  In light of this complexity we are advocating for the following policies on business enterprises.

  • Policy #4: Individuals are allowed to grow small amounts of cannabis in their homes for personal use.
  • Policy #5: Micro-businesses are allowed to be licensed to grow smaller amounts of cannabis to sell to the public.
  • Policy #6: Licenses for transportation, security and social consumption sites should have preferences for “minority enterprise.”
  • Policy #7: The process for companies to be awarded commercial licenses should have incentives for companies that do business with “minority enterprises.” 

Creating a designation for micro business enterprises to produce and sell small amounts of cannabis can help to stave off the emerging corporate monopoly of the cannabis industry.  Additionally, licensing of the auxiliary industries that have preferences for “minority enterprise” provides a pathway to directing more business opportunities to Black people.

The rubric used to determine licensure for the aspects of the industry that are less capital intensive, i.e., transportation, security, social consumption sites, should heavily weigh Black-owned businesses.  This may still run into constitutional challenges but using a points system that includes additional points for Black-owned companies has been an effective way to circumvent constitutional challenges in other arenas, i.e., college admissions and affirmative action.

Tax Revenues

Communities that are most impacted by the war on drugs should get the most access to revenues.  Below is our approach to getting resources in the hands of the community.

  • Policy #8: 60% of the tax revenues from cannabis sales should go back into the community.
    • The revenue should be allocated directly to local jurisdictions so that the community can have a role in how those resources are distributed. A metric should be used to determine jurisdictions most impacted by the war on drugs, and their portions of the tax revenues should be determined by that metric. The local legislature (county council) will pass an ordinance to determine specifics of how the resources are allocated within that particular jurisdiction.

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on our upcoming projects, events and activities.