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.
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 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.
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.
Our work now is to get a stronger version of the Odor Search bill in the Senate and to include language that removes criminal penalties for possession above the 2.5oz limit.
We must press these demands on the
Senate Judiciary Committee.
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Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee
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