Curious what legalized pot would look like in Maryland?

Advocates for recreational marijuana intend to introduce a detailed plan as soon as Wednesday that would rely on the state comptroller to heavily regulate and tax pot  - at about $50 an ounce to start.

Retailers would not be allowed to sell it anyone under 21 years old and couldn’t make a sale of more than an ounce, according to a draft of the bill obtained by The Baltimore Sun. Every bit of marijuana sold would come with a warning label and a potency rating.

Under the proposal, the state would limit the number of growers, who couldn’t sell directly to the public, as well as the number of retailers.

Conventional wisdom around the State House suggests it is unlikely lawmakers will follow in the footsteps of Colorado and approve legalized marijuana this year – Gov. Martin O’Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch are not backing the idea. But proponents are determined to begin the conversation.

Part of that conversation – led in the House of Delegates by Baltimore City Democrat Del. Curt Anderson and the Senate by Montgomery County Democrat Sen. Jamie Raskin – is to spell out how, when and where a state sanctioned marijuana industry would operate.

The bill’s sponsors call for clear separation among growers,  pot testers, marijuana product manufacturers and retailers.   Smoking pot in public – or growing it in public view – would be illegal. So would being stoned will driving or sailing. An employer could fire someone for being high at work.

While the proposal spells out some rules for the placement of retailers – far from a school or a liquor store, for example – it leaves significant discretion about where those shops could be to local governments.  As long as the local governments don’t outright ban marijuana shops, they could regulate the time, date and manner of them.

Adults could have up to six of their own marijuana plants at home, but they couldn’t grow it alongside a backyard vegetable garden unless it was fenced in and under lock and key.

Proponents of recreational marijuana argue the country’s drug policies unfairly lock up minorities and burden the legal system for a substance that is no more dangerous than alcohol.  The effort has drawn support of Del. Sheila Hixson, chair of the Ways and Means Committee that oversees some tax policies.  Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a long-time supporter of legalized marijuana, said he expects the state to legalize it within his lifetime.

And while public opinion polls both in Maryland and nation wide show a slim majority supports legalizing marijuana, most political observers doubt a majority of state lawmakers would endorse it in an election year.    In the meantime, however, lawmakers have a chance this session to argue over what a legalized pot program would look like, if they endorsed it. 

ecox@baltsun.com