Cumberland Times-News

Columns

January 20, 2014

Not so fast

Don’t be too quick to legalize marijuana

Maryland lawmakers should take a wait-and-see approach before approving legislation to legalize marijuana.

Some Democratic legislators want to make it legal for Marylanders to possess, use and grow marijuana. In turn, the state would regulate the weed and tax it. Their proposal would make it legal for Marylanders 21 years of age and older to possess as much as an ounce of marijuana, and would permit home-growing of up to six marijuana plants. Smoking the drug in public would remain illegal.

The trend to legalize marijuana is growing. But Maryland residents would be best served if their representatives wait to see how the legalization of pot works in Colorado and other jurisdictions where marijuana is now legal.

Rather than  making marijuana legal, we’d rather see the state ease current laws, making possession a civil rather than criminal offense.

For some lawmakers, the lure of being able to create a new tax through legalized marijuana must be tempting. After all, Maryland officials seem to like to tax everything that moves.

Instead of considering the tax dollars, legislators should wait to see if legal marijuana causes increased drug use in other states. Gov. Martin O’Malley fears that it may. He has said that he views marijuana as a “gateway to more harmful activity.”

Marylanders apparently are about evently divided on the legalization question. In November, a Goucher poll found that about 51 percent of Marylanders support legalizing marijuana, with about 40 percent in opposition. The poll had a 3.8 percent margin of error.

There are enough unknowns to put the issue on hold for now. If the marijuana experience succeeds in other jurisdictions, Maryland will have ample opportunity in the future to make pot legal.

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