There was a day — and it was not very long ago — that a call to legalize the use of marijuana would have been unthinkable for a politician. No longer.
The latest office-seeker to call for the legal use of marijuana is Heather R. Mizeur, a Maryland Democratic candidate for governor.
Although Colorado and Washington state voters have approved marijuana use, legal pot has yet to gain approval anywhere else in the U.S.
Mizeur is hoping her strategy of changing what she calls a “failed war on drugs” will draw some voters to her. She told the Baltimore Sun, "Marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco. It has been a failed policy for us as a nation to criminalize the use of this substance."
Under Mizeur's plan, only people 21 and older would be able to use marijuana legally. Possession would be limited to an ounce, and smoking marijuana in public would be prohibited. Driving while under the influence of marijuana would still be illegal. The marijuana plants would be grown in secure facilities in Maryland.
She sees a financial upside to the state if marijuana is legalized. Mizeur estimated that under a legal distribution system, licensed Maryland retailers would sell between 1.75 million and 2.25 million ounces of marijuana a year. She proposed an excise tax of $50 an ounce at the wholesale level and an 8 percent tax on retail sales. She estimated that the legal marijuana trade would produce $122.5 million to $157.5 million annually, which she would funnel into a special fund for early childhood education.
Although we doubt that Maryland will legalize marijuana anytime soon, the idea is not as far-fetched it may have been years ago. The Sun noted that a recent Goucher College poll showed that 51 percent of Marylanders support marijuana legalization, while 40 percent oppose it.
It will be interesting to see the reaction Mizeur gets as she touts her marijuana plan during campaign visits across the state.