Maryland Marijuana debate reignites

Maryland is talking marijuana. State lawmakers are considering bills that would legalize, regulate and tax the drug, possibly generating millions of dollars in the process.

But some say, money should not talk.

"I think it's absolutely foolish to rush into this and I think we need to look at the experience that other jurisdictions have," said Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger.

Some of those other states, including Colorado, are already touting some of the economic benefits but Chief Manger urged a process of discussion and debate where all things are considered - everything from the economic and law enforcement impact, to medical marijuana and health effects on youth, just some of the major points.

On Tuesday, state lawmakers in Annapolis heard from law enforcement, prosecutors, college students and parents to get their take on legalizing the drug.

Lawmakers supporting the bill say that regulating and taxing pot would succeed where the drug war has failed.

"I don't think that's the right way to get the economy better, with drugs and stuff like that. I don't think it's a good idea," said Raef Boussi, who has lived in Maryland for 22 years.

Beyond tax revenue and a newly created industry, there are law enforcement and incarceration issues. One bill being considered looks to reduce the penalties of possession of small amounts.

"I think there's myths out here that we've got just hundreds of people serving time in prisons for possession of marijuana - that's simply not true. That hasn't been true for a long time," said Chief Manger. "There's still going to be a black market, there's still going to be illegal sales, there's still going to be illegal possession, it's not this panacea that all these enforcement issues go away - they don't," he said.

Latayna Butler does not think pot should be categorized with harder narcotics like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine's.

"I think it's a good thing that we are finally discussing it especially for people who can be helped. You know, cancer patients and others with terminal diseases who are struggling right now. I don't if they're going about getting the drugs illegally," said Butler.

Considering all the moving parts within the marijuana debate, at least the moment, it seems there is still some hashing out to do.

"From a law enforcement perspective, I think there needs to emerge a political consensus before we could talk about what our particular approach would be to those issues," said Prince George's County Deputy Police Chief H.P. Stawinski.


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