Written Testimony In Favor of House Bill 1453

To Be Heard By The Members of the House Judiciary Committee
On Tuesday, March 19, 2013, at 1:00pm

By Allen St. Pierre
Executive Director
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

I thank members of the Maryland House Committee on the Judiciary for considering House Bill 1453, which proposes to regulate and tax the adult retail, licensed production and sale of cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol. Proceeds from these endeavors would be earmarked to fund treatment programs to prevent alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse. NORML largely supports these changes in law because they seek to replace the state's present, underground criminal market with an above ground legal market, comprised of licensed businesses - not criminal entrepreneurs. We believe that such a change would improve public safety.

It is time for Maryland lawmakers to give serious consideration to this proposal. Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation's nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition and replacing it with regulation. The historic votes on Election Day in Colorado and Washington - where, for the first time ever, a majority of voters decided at the ballot box to abolish cannabis prohibition - underscore this political reality.

Maryland is one of nine states debating marijuana regulation measures this year. These proposals are gaining both public and political support. Why? It's simple. The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant's medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color. Furthermore, the criminalization of cannabis simply doesn't work.

Despite more than 70 years of federal marijuana prohibition, Americans' consumption of and demand for cannabis is here to stay. It is time for state lawmakers to acknowledge this reality. It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to untaxed criminal enterprises and it is time for lawmakers to impose common-sense regulations governing cannabis' personal use by adults and licensing its production. A pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for limited, licensed production and sale of cannabis to adults - but restricts use among young people - best reduces the risks associated with its use or abuse.

House Bill 1453 is a better and more effective way to address marijuana and those adults who consume it responsibly. I encourage you to support House Bill 1453 to regulate marijuana, not criminalize it.