Maryland lawmakers to study legalizing recreational marijuana in 2020 with state law or by referendum

In this photo taken Oct. 17, 2018, a marijuana plant is pictured in Vancouver, Canada.
In this photo taken Oct. 17, 2018, a marijuana plant is pictured in Vancouver, Canada.(DON MACKINNON / AFP/Getty Images)

Leaders of Maryland's General Assembly created a work group Tuesday to study legalizing recreational use of marijuana — a signal the legislature won’t pass legislation this year on the issue.

The bipartisan group will make recommendations at the end of December that could be used to develop bills for the 2020 legislative session.


House Speaker Michael Busch said in a statement that he wanted to make sure legislators “understand all of the complexities of legalization and are prepared if, indeed, we move forward.”

Work group members will review issues such as how the state could license and tax such an industry, the public health effects of legalization, impacts on the criminal justice system, and how to promote participation by small, woman-owned and minority-owned businesses.

More than half of Marylanders surveyed support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, according to a new poll. The poll of more than 800 Maryland residents by Goucher College found 57 percent support marijuana legalization. Thirty-seven percent of those polled were opposed.

Among the discussions in Annapolis is whether legislators should seek to directly legalize recreational marijuana use by passing a bill or take the route of legislation that would set up a referendum for voters on the 2020 ballot.

Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who chairs his chamber's Judicial Proceedings Committee, and Del. Kathleen Dumais, a Montgomery County Democrat who is the House majority leader, are the work group’s co-chairs.

The other members are Democratic delegates Jay Walker, Vanessa Atterbeary, Eric Bromwell, David Moon, Sandy Rosenberg and Nick Mosby; Republican delegates Nic Kipke and Kathy Szeliga; Democratic senators Bill Ferguson, Brian Feldman, Jill P. Carter, Melony Griffith, Douglas J.J. Peters and Jeff Waldstreicher, and Republican senators Stephen Hershey and Chris West.