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ACTION ALERT: MD House bill on cannabis doesn’t address racial disparities

HB 837, as currently drafted, does not adequately address the racial inequities of cannabis prohibition.

The Maryland House of Delegates cannabis legalization bill (HB 837) is missing crucial provisions that would adequately address the excessive interactions between Black people and law enforcement. Additionally, the bills are missing provisions that would sufficiently address the harms done to Black and Brown people by the criminal justice system. Below are four missing aspects of criminal justice-related policy that are essential if cannabis legalization in Maryland is actually to achieve anything resembling racial justice.

  • The House bill does not eliminate all criminal penalties for possession and possession with intent to distribute cannabis. Without eliminating these penalties, Black people will be vulnerable to existing arrest patterns, where Black people will be saddled with criminal penalties despite cannabis legalization. 
 
  • The House bill does not adequately address all of the marijuana-related offenses that Black people have been saddled with that have led to lack of access to employment, public benefits, and exposure to higher levels of incarceration than their white counterparts. If we don’t expand the scope of convictions that can be expunged/vacated, there will be many people who will not be eligible for redress. For example, people who are convicted of selling small amounts of cannabis under the House would not have an opportunity to have their sentence reconsidered, causing someone to continue spending time in jail that would be better served in the community. 
 
  • The House bill does not protect Black and Brown Marylanders from being disproportionately and unnecessarily targeted and searched by police due to the odor of marijuana. If we don’t address this, the disproportionate interactions with Law enforcement and Black people will persist and inevitably lead to more violations of Black people’s rights.
 
  • The House bill continues to penalize people who smoke in public. Not treating smoking in public similar to smoking a cigarette in public will have poor Black and Brown people face the brunt of the enforcement and unnecessary interactions with police.

What we need you to do

Call/Email YOUR State Delegate.

Tell them to support amendments to HB 837 that address these concerns..

We want legalized cannabis in Maryland to address racial inequity and injustice.

Find your delegate:
mdelect.net

Example Phone/Email Script

Greetings Senator/Delegate

My name is John Doe and I am a registered voter and resident of your district. I am urging you to make important changes to HB 837. This bill is missing vital elements concerning the criminal justice. Please consider making the following changes:

- Eliminate all criminal penalties for possession and possession with intent to distribute cannabis.

- Address all of the marijuana-related offenses that Black people have been saddled with that have led to lack of access to employment, public benefits, and exposure to higher levels of incarceration than their white counterparts.

- Protect Black and Brown Marylanders from being disproportionately and unnecessarily targeted and searched by police due to the odor of marijuana.

- Stop penalizing people who smoke in public.

These are vital changes that's must be made to the current legislation for it to be equitable for Black and brown communities.

Thank you for your consideration.
John

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