Introducing a note of civility into an increasingly hard-hitting race for governor, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown wrote to one of his Democratic rivals expressing approval of her legislation to decriminalize possession of marijuana.
In a two-page letter that his office released to the media, Brown told Del. Heather R. Mizeur of Montgomery County that he recently introduced decriminalization bill is a "welcome part of the debate" and said he looked forward to working with her on the issue.
The letter followed an equally cordial letter from Mizeur welcoming Brown's expression of support for decriminalization and inviting him to join her in testifying for the bill. Mizeur sent a similar invitation to Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who also supports decriminalization.
Brown's letter, written on the lieutenant governor's official letterhead and addressed to Mizeur as a delegate rather than a candidate, spells out the reasons Brown recently came out in support of decriminalization -- a break from the more hard-line position Gov. Martin O'Malley has taken.
As they are currently constructed and enforced, our state's marijuana laws are costly, ineffective, and racially biased., Brown wrote. "In 2010, African Americans in Maryland were almost 3 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white counterparts, and black Marylanders represent almost 58 percent of all marijuana possession arrests, but only 30 percent of the population."
Parts of the letter echo Mizeur's speeched on the campaign trail.
"I support the decriminalization of marijuana because I believe in strong communities where safety – and not just the appearance of being tough on crime – comes first," Brown wrote.
The lieutenant governor's letter doesn't mention Mizeur's campaign proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana. Nor does it say whether he intends to testify on decriminalization.
Mizeur released a statement Monday night saying Brown's words are not enough.
"If he truly cares about the people who are currently negatively impacted by our marijuana prohibition laws, then I expect him to accept my invitation to put politics aside and join me in testifying in favor of this legislation at the bill hearing," she said.
Katie Hill, a Gansler campaign spokeswoman, said Monday night that the attorney general has not replied. She had no comment on the exchange of letters.