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Take Action for Cannabis Justice: Strengthen Odor Search Bill, Remove Possession Penalties

Background

The two major priorities that we have worked on during the 2023 Maryland General Assembly are prohibiting law enforcement from searches and traffic stops solely based on the odor of cannabis and removing criminal penalties for possession and possession with intent to distribute.

Legalization of recreational cannabis use was decided by Maryland voters, and a recreational market is set to be established by July 1, 2023. However, if law enforcement is allowed to use odor as the sole justification for searches and traffic stops, and criminal penalties for possession of cannabis remain in place, Black people may be at risk of experiencing police abuses and overreaches.

The problem

People will likely be moving though the state with cannabis without knowing the particulars of the laws on cannabis and will be subject to increased levels of engagement with law enforcement. Black people are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement and without making the changes that we have proposed in our 2 legislative priorities, Maryland will essentially have legalized cannabis for white people, while Black people continue to be criminalized and exposed to interactions with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

The mechanics

Criminal Penalties

The bill that would have removed criminal penalties from possession of cannabis above the 2.5oz limit did not move out of either committee before crossover. 

This means that in order for this to pass, it would have to be amended onto another bill. 

What is "crossover"?

“Crossover Day,” as it's known, is the deadline for guaranteeing that a bill passed in one house of the Assembly will be considered in the other house during the final three weeks of the legislative session.

Crossover Day for the 2023 Session was on Monday, March 20th.

Odor Searches

The Odor Search bill did move out of the House of Delegates before the crossover deadline. This bill was weakened by having an exclusionary rule that is uncodified. 

The exclusionary rule prohibits evidence found in an illegal search from being used in court. This serves as a deterrent to officers doing illegal searches. Uncodified language is more of a recommendation, and not a mandate. 

Additionally, it leaves the policy largely up to the courts to decide. 

We need an explicit exclusionary rule that prohibits the admissibility of evidence that are the results of illegal searches in court.

We want this language in order to produce the full deterrent effect of law enforcement being engaged in illegal searches and stops.

Take Action Now

Let state legislators hear your voice!

YOU make the difference between this legislation passing or not. We need you to email contact legislators so that they will support the community’s demands..

In other words - contacting your elected officials make a HUGE difference.

Fill out the form and hit 'Send" to email members of the committee

Your support can make the difference!

Email the Committee

Contact the Committee Members

You can also call, email and tag committee members on social media to tell them to support our demands.

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee

Chair

Senator Will Smith

District 20
Montgomery County
Democrat
410-841-3634
will.smith@senate.state.md.us
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Vice-Chair

Senator Jeff Waldstreicher

District 18
Montgomery County
Democrat
410-841-3137
jeff.waldstreicher@senate.state.md.us
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Members (sorted by last name)

Senator Jack Bailey

District 29
Calvert and St. Mary's
Republican
410-841-3673
jack.bailey@senate.state.md.us
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Senator Jill Carter

District 41
Baltimore City
Democrat
(410) 841-3697
jill.carter@senate.state.md.us
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Senator William Folden

District 4
Frederick
Republican
410-841-3704
william.folden@senate.state.md.us
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Senator Mary-Dulany James

District 34
Harford County
Democrat
410-841-3158
marydulany.james@senate.state.md.us
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Senator Ariana B. Kelly

District 16
Montgomery
Democrat
410-841-3124
ariana.kelly@senate.state.md.us
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Senator Mike McKay

District 1
Garrett, Allegany, and Washington
Republican
410-841-3565
mike.mckay@senate.state.md.us
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Senator C. Anthony Muse

District 26
Prince George's
Democrat
410-841-3092
anthony.muse@senate.state.md.us
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Senator Charles Sydnor III

District 44
Baltimore City & County
Democrat
(410) 841-3612
charles.sydnor@senate.state.md.us
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Senator Chris West

District 42
Baltimore County
Republican
410-841-3648
chris.west@senate.state.md.us
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