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Miller, Busch see different paths on marijuana legalization

House Speaker Michael Busch, left, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. at the Annapolis Summit in Annapolis on Wednesday. (Maximilian Franz for The Daily Record)

House Speaker Michael Busch, left, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. at the Annapolis Summit in Annapolis on Wednesday January 9, 2019. (Maximilian Franz for The Daily Record)

ANNAPOLIS — Legalizing recreational marijuana will be a topic of discussion during the 2019 General Assembly, which opens at noon Wednesday, with the fate of legislation on the subject much in doubt, according to the legislature’s leaders.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said the legislature could pass a proposed constitutional amendment that would put the issue of legalization before Maryland voters in 2020. But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said legislators should vote directly on whether to legalize the drug and not punt the issue to the electorate.

A Senate-House task force will meet this session to examine the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana. The panel will be led by Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, D-Montgomery, the House majority leader.

Issues to be addressed include how legalized marijuana would be sold, concerns about sales to minors, and the effect on Maryland’s criminal code with regard to controlled dangerous substances, the leaders said Wednesday morning at the Annapolis Summit, an annual General Assembly preview event sponsored by The Daily Record.

Busch, a Democrat, said that legalization is likely just a matter of time.

“I think that’s coming; I think that’s the future,” Busch said of legalization.

“It will be much like overturning prohibition,” which was achieved by amending the U.S. Constitution, Busch added.

But Miller, also a Democrat, said marijuana legalization should be determined by the legislature and not by amending the state constitution.

“I personally don’t want our constitution cluttered up with all these issues,” Miller said.

Legislators must ask themselves “are you for it or against it” and if in favor of legalization they should “vote for it in the General Assembly,” Miller said.

“I think it needs to be done right,” Miller added. “It needs to be understood and intelligently voted upon.”


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