Legalizing marijuana for recreational use enjoys strong support in Maryland, according to new statewide polling on the issue.
Goucher College found that 60 percent of Maryland residents are in favor of adult-use cannabis legalization, which means the reform has more support in the state than President Joe Biden (53 percent) and both of Maryland’s two Democratic senators, Ben Cardin (46 percent) and Chris Van Hollen (44 percent). Gov. Larry Hogan can take heart from the fact he’s the only politician in the survey with an approval rating that’s higher (68 percent) than support for cannabis legalization.
The poll’s results consist of the responses of 700 Marylanders questioned between October 14 and 20, 2021.
Goucher has carried out surveys on marijuana legalization in Maryland since 2015, with each result revealing majority support for the measure. That said, the most recent findings are seven percentage points lower than when Maryland residents were last polled about legalizing cannabis in March this year.
As in many other states, a demographic breakdown of responses to the survey shows significant disparities in opinion along partisan lines. While 65 percent of Democrats back legalization, only 48 percent of Republicans are behind the reform. Independents, meanwhile, favor legalizing cannabis by 63 percent.
The latest findings could add further impetus to calls for legalizing recreational marijuana in Maryland, with legislative leaders having already announced their plan to put the question to voters through a ballot measure at next year’s midterm elections.
In anticipation of voter-approval of the reform, House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D) formed a 10-member working group to begin laying out the rules and regulations of a legal marijuana marketplace in Maryland. The House Cannabis Referendum and Legalization Workgroup has so far held two meetings to discuss experiences of marijuana legalization across the US as well as to listen to a presentation on cannabis use trends post-legalization from a prominent federal drug official.
Like Jones, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D) is in favor of legalizing adult-use cannabis, having described the move as “beyond past due”, but is skeptical of achieving it through a referendum. Instead, he wants lawmakers to take the initiative and pass a marijuana legalization bill through the legislature.
Maryland House Del. Jazz Lewis introduced a bill to legalize recreational cannabis before the start of the 2021 session, but it was never put up for a vote. The Senate Finance Committee, however, held a hearing on a bill to legalize cannabis sponsored by Ferguson, while the House Judiciary Committee discussed a separate legalization measure.
Lawmakers from each chamber then convened in an attempt to merge the House and Senate proposals into one bill that would be palatable to Gov. Hogan, who is no fan of marijuana legalization but has indicated he is open to giving it serious consideration.
Marijuana legalization in neighboring Virginia, which took effect on July 1, has also added to a sense of urgency in Maryland to approve and enact the reform. Adults 21 and older can now legally possess and cultivate marijuana in Virginia, but commercial sales are not slated to launch until January 1, 2024.