Thiru Vignarajah, who says he will run for mayor of Baltimore, said he would issue permits for and tax the city’s marijuana trade.
In a position paper — timed for April 20, or 4/20 — Vignarajah said taxing marijuana could create well-paying jobs, reduce overdoses of other drugs, and fund universal pre-kindergarten for every child in Baltimore.
He said Colorado and other states have issued permits and taxed the sale of marijuana despite the continued federal prohibition. “It’s time for Baltimore to lead, not follow,” Vignarajah writes.
Due to its charter, the city generally has broader authority to tax than other Maryland jurisdictions, said Michael Sanderson, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties.
“Baltimore City, unlike many other jurisdictions in Maryland, has independent taxing authority under our city charter,” Vignarajah said. “We should still do this in partnership and collaboration with local and state authorities, but Baltimore should be leading the charge.”
However, City Solicitor Andre Davis said it isn’t that simple. The question of whether the city could impose its own tax on marijuana is legally tricky, he said — not in the least because marijuana remains illegal in Maryland, except for medical purposes.
“The subject is just so delicate,” Davis said. “It would certainly need to be studied.”
Vignarajah, a former deputy Maryland attorney general, calls for permits to be prioritized for “historically-disadvantaged business owners of color” and those willing to hire employees with non-violent criminal records who are seeking legitimate employment opportunities.
He estimates the market would produce $250 million in revenue for the city, and allow the city to get in front of what he calls “inevitable” statewide legalization. All tax proceeds should be “strictly dedicated” to universal pre-K for every 3- or 4-year-old, to school repairs and improvements, and to fund endowments at historically black colleges.
Vignarajah has announced his intention to run in the 2020 mayor’s race but has not formally filed to run.
The “unofficial mayor of Hampden” Will Bauer, better known as his alias Lou Catelli, said in June that he planned to run. James Hugh Jones II, who also ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, has also said he will run for mayor. City Councilman Brandon Scott and former mayor Sheila Dixon have both said they are considering running for mayor.
Sun reporter Alison Knezevich contributed to this article.