Mayor says she won't wave 'Schmoke flag of legalization' for marijuana

As some Maryland lawmakers rally for marijuana legalization, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will not be among them.

The mayor on Wednesday spoke out against legalizing the drug, saying she does not endorse efforts by a previous mayor, Kurt Schmoke, to advocate for decriminalization.


"I don't think it serves anybody's purpose to clog up the system with this type of offense, but I'm not going to be waving the Schmoke flag of legalization," she said.

Rawlings-Blake said she endorses "diversion programs" that try to prevent offenders from continuing to use the drug.


"My hope is that more people would participate, so they wouldn't find themselves being arrested," she said.

In an email, Schmoke, who was mayor of Baltimore between 1987 and 1999, said he'd never heard the term "Schmoke flag" used before.

"I assure you it was never a flag of retreat," said Schmoke, who is now dean of Howard University's law school. "My firm belief is, and was during my tenure as mayor, that there should be a war on drugs, but it should be primarily a public health war not a criminal justice war. And it should be a war led by the Surgeon General not the Attorney General. By the way, I think the mayor is doing a fine job."

Tomorrow, state lawmakers say they will launch an effort to pass a bill in this year's legislative session that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol in Maryland.

Baltimore Del. Curt Anderson and Montgomery County lawmakers Del. Sheila Hixson, and Sen. Jamie Raskin are scheduled to participate in the news conference, according to a release from a coalition advocating for legalization.

According to the ACLU of Maryland, a majority of the state's voters (53 percent) support regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol, citing a recent poll.

Maryland Policy & Politics

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Last week, Baltimore Del. Maggie McIntosh joined the chorus of powerful legislators supporting legalized marijuana in Maryland.

In an email to supporters, McIntosh identified the legalizing pot as one of four "the biggest, most important issues" facing the General Assembly this year.


Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller also supports legalizing and taxing marijuana, following in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington. One candidate for governor, Democrat Del. Heather Mizeur of Montgomery County, has made legalizing pot a centerpeice of her campaign.

Most political observers in Annapolis do not expect it to pass over the objections of Gov. Martin O'Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

Sun reporter Erin Cox contributed to this article.