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Maryland lawmakers dig into details of marijuana market, as legalization looms as a top issue

Delegates heard from an outside legal expert and the heads of the state’s alcohol and medical regulatory agencies at a Tuesday afternoon work group meeting aimed at exploring how Maryland might shape the rules around a recreational market. Delegates expressed concern at Tuesday’s meeting about how to ensure new startups — particularly small minority-owned ventures — can compete against established marijuana companies and capture a large share of the potentially lucrative recreational market.

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, created the work group earlier this year after throwing her support behind a potential statewide voter referendum next year on whether to allow adults to buy and use marijuana legally in the state. Polls in recent years have consistently shown a majority of Marylanders support allowing recreational marijuana.

Maryland politicians have studied recreational marijuana issues before, including a 2019 joint work group, but have in past years kicked the can down the road on tackling the issue, including setting aside bills last spring from Prince George’s County Del. Jazz Lewis and Montgomery County Sen. Brian J. Feldman, both Democrats.

But Jones’ support put significant new momentum behind efforts to legalize recreational marijuana, something that Senate President Bill Ferguson had already endorsed. Jones said she harbors “personal concerns” about the possibility but that the “disparate criminal justice impact” of outlawing recreational marijuana had convinced her that “voters should have a say in the future of legalization.” [Read more at Baltimore Sun]

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