Thursday, February 21, 2013
Maryland 2013- What a Mess!
In 2013 Maryland is a mess when it comes to marijuana reform. Why? Mainly because there are too many bills to address the issue of marijuana reform only one of which has much of a chance to survive and possibly pass. That bill is simply an extension of SB 308 which Gov. O’Malley signed into law in April of 2011. SB 308 provides for an affirmative defense in cases involving the medicinal use of marijuana. HB 180 simply extends that protection to caregivers. This was debated last year and failed. This bill is sponsored by Delegates Glenn & Morhaim and others.
Two other bills seek to make Maryland the 19th state to have a medical marijuana law. These laws include New Jersey style state licensed growers and dispensaries. These bills, HB 1100 & 1101 introduced by Del. Morhaim are the same basic bill(s) he has introduced for a number of years now. They were “tweaked a bit” by 2011’s Medical Marijuana Work Group and now include a commission that either allow physicians or designated academic medical centers to recommend marijuana to select patients.
Back again this year is Del. Glenn’s more liberal bill SB 302, that would also allow Maryland to join other states in passing medical marijuana legislation. This is the bill I have always preferred as it allows for personal cultivation.
Still Sen. Bobby Zirkin seeks to decriminalize marijuana with the introduction of two bills, SB 297 & SB 394. A hearing on SB 297 was held on Feb. 12th you can listen to that here: http://mgahouse.maryland.gov/house/play/4db76838718246ebbe0a9bd4e6fb6be6/?catalog/03e481c7-8a42-4438-a7da-93ff74bdaa4c&playfrom=1333391
In his opening remarks he talks about medical marijuana as if SB 308 had never passed and we are still living under the provisions of the Darryl Putnam Compassionate Use Act from back in 2003. This is at the heart of the problem even our lawmakers do not understand the state marijuana laws in their own state. He was corrected by I believe by Sen. Raskin and I only say that because I believe I recognized his voice.
Even on the decriminalization issue there is two bills. One making small amounts a civil offense punishable by a fine. The other does the same thing only without the weight restriction.
Here’s the problem of where marijuana reform is in 2013, especially in Maryland. The tide is turning. Senators are seriously asking whether or not we shouldn’t go ahead legalize it. Some question whether the issue should go to referendum, fine by me on that one. When seriously considering this question lawmakers rightly ask, “Why should I over turn laws that have been on the books for years?”
The answer to that is simple, because we should have never outlawed them in the first place. There is no difference between alcohol, marijuana, heroin, meth; it doesn’t matter because they are all intoxicants. Intoxicants that can wreak havoc a person’s life. In 1919 we decided that since alcohol did all the horrible things we attribute to drugs that it should be illegal. Then in 1933 the nation collectively said, “What the fuck were we thinking? This has been a disaster, people selling fake booze that kills people, criminal paying off politicians and cops, automatic weapons fire on our city streaks, this is insane. Let them drink.”
Well the time has come to say let them get high. Stop lying about the drugs and how they will always automatically ruin your life because we have seen that is not true. Be honest that yes a lot maybe even most people who get involved with certain drugs become addicted to those drugs. But understand this; there was a gateway effect to our drug policy. The gateway was giving control over all of those different drugs to criminals. The gateway was that both the government and the pushers were lying about the drugs. Any ideas as to how this all got so screwed up?
I think somewhere in the back lawmakers’ minds there is this image of parties breaking out after pot is legal with light shows on the walls, people walking around smoking joints, loud music blaring away, young women in halter-tops and mini-skirts doing the “Frug,” and their daughter calling out, “Hey there’s an orgy going on in the other room, let’s go!”
The reality is a mother or father or both come home from ten hours of work, their body racked with pain from standing on their feet all day, or being humped over a computer screen. They make sure the kids are occupied in play and they step out to the back deck. The kids are in clear view playing in the living room or family room. There out on the deck in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter mom and dad share a “bowl” or a ‘joint.” When they’re done, their crappy day doesn’t seem so crappy, the kids who’s play at first sounded like noise now sounds like joy. The two parents cook dinner together, do the dishes, give the kids a bath, read stories and put the kids to bed. When they are sound asleep, mom and dad put their feet up and again share some marijuana as they relax and watch TV together. This is what we call illegal activities.
There you have it. That’s the basic thumbnail sketch of marijuana reform in Maryland. I think I might have missed a bill or two but these are the highlights. What I’m going to do this year is up in the air. In the past I have come and pleaded pass this bill so I won’t have to drag my handicapped body out into the cold winds of Annapolis in the dead of winter again. I support the idea of including caregivers in the affirmative defense that I now enjoy. What I’m not certain about is whether or not I will indeed drag myself out into the cold to testify in favor of it even though it seems to have the best chance of passing. The rest are just good ideas that politicians are still too timid to enact.