A campaign to bring legal cannabis to Maryland officially kicked off in earnest on Thursday, as supporters look to build support ahead of this November’s vote on the initiative.
Appearing on the ballot as “Question 4,” the measure would legalize possession of cannabis for Maryland adults aged 21 and older, and also establish a regulated marijuana industry in the state.
The measure requires a simple majority to pass and, should it be approved by voters, will take effect on July 1, 2023.
“Question 4” is backed by a power player in the cannabis industry. According to The Washington Post, the campaign “relies on funding from Trulieve…an industry giant with dispensaries in eight states, including three medical locations in Maryland.” The newspaper reports that Trulieve has given $50,000 to the Question 4 campaign, which has only one other donor, Blended Public Affairs, which contributed $100 to the effort.
The chairman of the campaign is Eugene Monroe, a former offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens who has become a champion of cannabis reform since retiring from the NFL.
“Legalizing cannabis would stimulate Maryland’s economy and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, while allowing Maryland residents to benefit from vital investments in education, public health, and public safety funded by cannabis taxes,” Monroe said in a statement, as quoted by The Washington Post.
In a statement on the “Yes on 4” campaign’s official website, Monroe says that passing “Question 4 will put an end to the failed criminalization of cannabis, create a well-regulated legal marijuana market centered around equity, and open up new doors for local entrepreneurs and small business owners.”
“I hope every Marylander will vote yes on Question 4 this November,” he says.
The campaign says that the proposal will lead to the “creation of a well-regulated legal market for cannabis sales would generate tens of thousands of new jobs in Maryland, and may provide new opportunities for hundreds of local small business owners and entrepreneurs,” while also “creating new small businesses and career pathways within the cannabis industry, legalization would provide an economic boost to related industries that already provide good-paying jobs for many Marylanders, including construction, real estate, and transportation.”
The “Yes on 4” campaign also asserts that legalization is “estimated to provide the state with over $135 million in tax revenue annually,” a figure it says “doesn’t include city and county revenue or the savings from the millions of dollars Maryland spends each year enforcing marijuana possession laws.”
Lawmakers in Maryland passed a bill earlier this year that set the stage for the ballot referendum. Under the legislation that passed, as The Washington Post reported on Thursday, “if the referendum passes the state will conduct a study of the impact of marijuana on public health and a disparities study looking at the business market and what might be needed to help women- and minority-owned businesses enter the industry.”
The campaign says that the new law would create a Cannabis Business Assistance Fund “to help minority- and women-owned businesses seeking to enter the legal cannabis market” in order to “help level the playing field and ensure those in Maryland who are most often left behind get a fair shot at the economic opportunities created by marijuana legalization.”
The state’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, did not sign the bill that passed earlier this year, which means that it would not require his signature to take effect.
Polling suggests that cannabis advocates could be in line for a big victory in Maryland come November.
A survey in March found that 62% of Marylanders support the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, while only 34% said they were opposed.