George criticizes Mizeur marijuana proposal

(NOTICE: This article replaces an earlier version that incorrectly characterized Del. Ron George's criticism of Del. Heather Mizeur's plan based on the reporter's misunderstanding of the proposal.)

Republican Ron George has became the first gubernatorial candidate to target fellow hopeful Heather R. Mizeur's proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana -- focusing on a provision of Mizeur's proposal to let adults legally grow their own.

George, a  state delegate from Anne Arundel County, released a statement Thursday in which he denounced Mizeur's plan to tax legal marijuana sales and use the proceeds for early childhood education was first reported in The Baltimore Sun Tuesday.

“Delegate Mizeur’s Pot for Pre-K proposal is a pipe dream," George's statement said.  "If we legalize marijuana allowing everyone to grow and produce their own, there will be no market and thus no tax revenue."

The plan offered by Mizeur, a Montgomery County Democrat, calls for commercial cultivation of legal marijuana only under license in secure facilities.

When asked about his release Thursday, George said he had "skimmed" through Mizeur's plan and couldn't point to the provision he was criticizing. But on Friday he called back to say he had found the provision that justified his statement.

In it, Mizeur proposes to allow individual adults to legally possess up to six marijuana plant -- up to three of them mature -- if they are grown in a secure, enclosed space. George contended that the provision would drain revenue from tax collections on the commercial marijuana sales Mizeur envisions. An earlier version of this posting mistakenly said Mizeur's plan would allow no unlicensed cultivation.

George said he would be open to "proposals that identify non-violent drug offenders and treat them with diversion programs."

"Any moves toward decriminalization need to be done with the proper input of medical and mental health professionals as well as law enforcement and community officials," he said.

George also objected to the plan on fiscal grounds.

"The cost of government pre-K, like every so-called ‘good government' program, will likely exceed initial projections and further bury Maryland in structural debt," George said.

Steven Hershkowitz, a spokesman for Mizeur, said George's statement "is indicative of the type of surface-level rejection of big new ideas that has plagued Annapolis for years."

Hershkowitz said Mizeur's plan would bring in much-needed revenue for her universal pre-K plan and make communities safer.

"We hope the other candidates can at least join Heather in the conversation, if not standing with her in support of these crucial reforms," he said.


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