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District 5 legislative candidates discuss legalizing marijuana

Though a bill to legalize marijuana didn't pass the Maryland General Assembly last legislative session, it did gain powerful allies.

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. publicly supported the measure, along with gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur. Others haven't taken the measure off the table for future debates despite the bills dying in both the House and the Senate this legislative session.

But as Colorado and Washington foray into the uncharted territory of taxing and regulating marijuana, the debate to legalize will likely continue to crop up in Maryland and nationwide. And new marijuana legislation did pass in the state this year, as Maryland lawmakers voted to decriminalize the possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana.

Seven Republicans for the District 5 House of Delegates are seeking to move on to November's general election. Voters can select up to three candidates in the June 24 primary election, who will then move on to the general election.

The two House Democrat candidates will automatically move on to the general election. In the District 5 Senate race, both the Republican and Democrat candidates are running unopposed.

The Times asked District 5 candidates if they would vote for or against legalizing marijuana, and why.

District 5 House of Delegates Republican candidates

Carmen Amedori: Law enforcement officials and state's attorneys throughout Maryland harshly opposed legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana because of the multiple complications it creates for law enforcement and prosecution. Therefore, I am opposed to those measures to legalize and decriminalize.

Donald Elliott: Under no circumstances I would favor any legislation which would legalize or decriminalize the use of marijuana. Any legislation which approves the recreational use of marijuana would have a detrimental impact on society. Research has demonstrated that in almost every instance of heroin addiction, the entry level drug was marijuana. On the other hand I support the medical use of marijuana under strict distribution controls. I am convinced that substantial medical benefits are derived in certain maladies.

Susan Krebs: I am opposed to the legalization of marijuana and will vote against it. The arguments for supporting the legalization of marijuana are very weak. Just because other states are doing it doesn't make it good public policy. The legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington state have been very problematic and they are now seeing the negative impact of their decision. The impact of marijuana usage on the development of young minds and brains has yet to be carefully considered. Marijuana is known to be the "gateway drug" to other addictive substances.

Justin Ready: I do not support legalization of marijuana. While I'm sympathetic to some of the arguments in favor of decriminalization, if we legalize it, we say to children and young adults that it's OK to smoke marijuana. The last thing we need in today's culture is another thing that distracts, de-motivates, and disconnects people.

Haven Shoemaker: I oppose marijuana legalization at this time until we have had a chance to see the effects of legalization in states like Colorado.

Joshua Stonko: One of the reasons that I am endorsed by the Carroll County Fraternal Order of Police is my strong opposition to the use of illegal drugs. The bill that passed this year was not for legalization, but decriminalization. I will not support marijuana's legalization and would have voted against decriminalization this past session. I will oppose any legislation that could further threaten our law enforcement officers and public safety.

Kevin Utz: I'm opposed to legalizing addicting drugs such as marijuana. As a retired Maryland State Trooper, I have seen the effects of how this drug alone has destroyed children, families and demands of the addicted to commit crimes to support habits of continued drug abuse. I will fight strongly to change minds of any representative in Annapolis by bringing attention to habitual effects, failure to obtain jobs because of drug use and the huge government expense for rehabilitating abusers.

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District 5 House of Delegates Democratic candidates

Zachary Hands: I would vote to legalize marijuana. It's categorization as a schedule 1 drug is laughable. I do see some pitfalls of its legalization. But the science is clear that it is no worse than alcohol, actually less so, and it would give the state direct control over the exchange of the drug.

Dorothy Scanlan: We have the opportunity to see how this will play out in two states: Washington state and Colorado. We can learn from their successes and mistakes. Assuming a favorable outcome, I would vote for the law. We are spending millions for law enforcement to chase down users and dealers. Wouldn't it make more sense to quality control, regulate, and tax it -- and, therefore, make money from it instead? Of course, I would want people to use it responsibly. To that end, I support treating marijuana consumption like alcohol consumption -- keeping it away from schools, preventing underage use, and nowhere near a moving vehicle. The same laws could be applied to marijuana use as are already applied to alcohol use. There is certainly controversy as to whether marijuana is addictive or acts as a gateway drug, but there is no hard data to bear this out.

District 5 Senate Republican candidate

Sen. Joe Getty: I opposed the bill from the 2014 session to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and would vote against any future bills for legalization. I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to substance abuse, especially with the current trend in Maryland of younger-aged individuals using heroin and other opioids for the first time. In the mid-1990s, Carroll County had a surge of teenager deaths from heroin overdoses. As a member of the House of Delegates in the 1990s, I sponsored several bills to toughen penalties for heroin dealers and to insure that the public schools were informed about drug use in the community so that they can insure public safety in the school community. Maryland is ill-prepared for the problems of drugged-driving that will face law enforcement and prosecutors under the new decriminalization law.

District 5 Senate Democratic candidate

Anita Riley: I am against legalizing marijuana. I think it sends a bad message to young people. Recently on the news -- fourth graders selling marijuana to other fourth grade classmates -- astonishing! It has been proven that continued use does damage to your brain/memory. Saying that money from legalizing marijuana would be used to finance pre-k education sounds wonderful, but 30 years ago the purpose of the lottery was to fund education. Have we seen that, yet? If we had, we wouldn't be begging for money every year to fund education or having to accept less money.

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