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Pols united against pot legalization


Three significant hurdles formed in front of efforts to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on the opening day of the General Assembly when the state’s top three Democrats said they opposed the idea of moving Maryland in the direction of Colorado.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller all said Wednesday that while they support medicinal uses for marijuana, they would not support any law that opens the door to full legalization.

“I’m not much in favor of it,” O’Malley said. “I’ve seen what drug addiction has done to the people of our state and the people of our city. I also know that this drug and its use and its abuse can be a gateway to even more harmful behavior.

“And I know that there are those who say you can say the same about alcohol, and yes, that’s true. But I don’t think the answer is to promote greater access and greater recreational abuse of drugs, whether it is this particular drug or another drug.”

The governor, Busch and Miller made their opposition known during interviews with Marc Steiner on his traditional Annapolis Summit radio broadcast just hours before the opening of the session. The Daily Record hosted the 11th annual event in partnership with the “Marc Steiner Show,” which was broadcast on WEAA 88.9 FM.

The comments were disappointing to some, including Gail Rand, an Annapolis woman who bills herself as a “pediatric medical cannabis advocate” and who asked a question from the floor at the event.

Rand told O’Malley, Busch and Miller that her son Logan battles epilepsy, but that medical marijuana law passed in Maryland last year offers little hope because no hospitals have signed up to be part of the state study.

Full legalization would allow her son to use the drug to alleviate his medical condition, she said, adding that medical marijuana is reduced to an oil-based tincture and administered to children orally — sometimes with honey.

“I think for my son and others there is no [better] opportunity they could have than to have access to the medicine that could make them fruitful,” Rand said, adding that in her opinion “there is no more nonpartisan issue” than legalizing marijuana for medical use for children.

Miller and Busch also expressed their opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana use.

“In terms of the legalization of marijuana in Maryland, it’s a long way off,” said Miller, D-Calvert and Prince George’s. “I think a lot of states will move in that direction eventually.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley at the podium in the House chamber with Speaker Michael E. Busch and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

The House of Delegates and Senate are expected to see a number of proposals ranging from decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana to legalization along the lines of Colorado.

Last year the Senate passed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. That bill died in the House.

“I think we’ll try to get back to where the Senate was at the end of last year,” Miller said of the effort to decriminalize the drug.

Del. Curt Anderson, D-Baltimore, said last month that he planned to sponsor a bill that would fully legalize the drug, regulate its cultivation and sale, and tax it. Doing so would help reduce the numbers of people arrested for possession, who he said were predominantly black.

But a number of other legislators, including some of his colleagues from Baltimore, said they opposed full legalization.

Del. Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., another Baltimore Democrat, said he opposed Anderson’s bill and did not see it as either a civil rights issue or an issue of concern in his own district.

“People in my district just are not talking about this at their kitchen tables,” said Mitchell, whose family played a prominent role in the civil rights era.

Also opposing full legalization is Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, D-Baltimore.

Rosenberg, who served as vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from 2004 to 2011, said he would favor an effort to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana coupled with mandatory drug treatment.

Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said that was something he also could support.

“I’m in no way supportive of recreational use of marijuana like in Colorado,” Busch said. “I think we’re a long way away from that.”